Culture & People

The “Maestro” Coordinating Everything from Development to Mass-Production: President Kyo Won Jin at SK hynix

By February 28, 2020 March 12th, 2020 No Comments

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“Computing Everywhere, Computer Everywhere”

Kyo Won Jin, President and Chief Product & Production Officer (CPO) at SK hynix brought this topic up at the very beginning of the interview. Based on a philosophy he built over time, he depicted the future of SK hynix throughout the interview. He said, “The world is turning into a place where computers exist everywhere, and it provides an unprecedented opportunity SK hynix has ever seen.” To seize this opportunity, he has been thinking long and hard to discover what SK hynix needs most right now, actively sharing the results of his contemplation with other members.

The “Symbol of Innovation” Bringing Changes to Ways of Working

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Starting with Head of NAND Development Center at SK hynix in 2014, Jin has held various important positions including Head of Quality & Reliability Assurance, and Head of DRAM Development & Business at SK hynix. He has been involved in numerous successful projects, which led to remarkable achievements, but he takes none of them as his own.

“I’ve never thought of any specific achievement as my own. Some parts of the company’s overall success was from me, but, of course, some parts of the company’s failures came from me as well. I’ve always had mentors to learn from, and colleagues who helped realize my visions. In short, I believe being with SK hynix was my key to successes.”

Like other executives at SK hynix, Jin always look back at himself as well as the present, and continuously pursue changes to enhance competitiveness. He also evaluated SK hynix’s current position objectively and emphasized constant “innovation” is essential for SK hynix to become the best in the industry.

Jin said, “SK hynix has a history of hardship. Based on such experiences, I think the company’s ability to overcome crisis is beyond excellent. However, we have never had achieved the best position in the industry before. To be the best and to stand out from the competition, we have to change ourselves faster than any other does. What SK hynix needs now is the “innovation to be the best.” Executive abilities must precede in order to excel in the technology-based industry like memory semiconductor. For this, we need to clearly understand our current development and manufacturing competitiveness, as well as maximize the organizational efficiency by innovations, such as shortening Turn-around Time (TAT), speeding up the ramp-up of new products, and transforming the ways of working with data-science-based methods.”

Jin recently changed the meeting room layout, removing large tables and chairs. Instead, he installed standing tables and placed chairs along the walls so participants can sit anywhere if they want. This allowed all participants from top to bottom to get involved in discussion, and improved speed and quality of decision-making. Likewise, Jin thinks about innovation every day and acts if necessary.

Jin noted, “The information on which I base all my judgments comes from the field. Therefore, true innovation comes from changes in the field, but at present, it takes far too long for the changes to spread in the field, and the field employees’ voices also take too much time to reach me. If we stick to the current way of operating, it can take up to a year for a consensus to form across the entire organization. It means that there can’t be any real innovation within that year.”

“I think the role of team leaders, who play the role of middleman between employees and management, is more important when forming a consensus within the entire organization. When most employees work, they are in some ways influenced by their team leaders. Therefore, we plan to innovate the ways the management communicate with team leaders, in order to spread the measures of changes to members so that they can actually feel the changes. Through this, we want to create an environment where all employees can realize the changes and voluntarily pursue their own personal excellence.”

President Jin also said that he has so much advice for junior employees, as he has already walked through the same career path as them.

“Our society has developed via the accumulation of knowledge. As I learned so much from the people higher up the ladder than me, I’d like to return the favor and deliver my knowledge and wisdom that I gained from my experiences to the younger generation. I’m sure not everything I say will help, but if juniors can use some of my experiences in their own development, I don’t think there’s anything in the world that would be more gratifying for me than that.”

With a smile, Jin added that he’s spending even more time listening.

The “Maestro” Coordinating Everything from Development to Manufacturing

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Nowadays, the semiconductor market environment is changing rapidly. While as a number of key products were enough to generate considerable amounts of sales in the past, diversified customer needs have turned each of the derivative products crucial in the market nowadays. SK hynix has also began fundamental structural improvements. With the newly established Product Development & Manufacturing organization, SK hynix has setup a “product-oriented business system” that can respond to every diverse customer need. The company is working to change the role of each organization and the way of working accordingly. Jin is now at the forefront of this change as the company’s CPO.

Jin said, “It is so important to establish a system that provide customers with competitive products on time to achieve positive business performance and bring value to the customers. Different organizations used to work separately focusing on their own tasks. Such boundaries between development and manufacturing, DRAM and NAND, and front-end and back-end processes meant inevitable inefficiencies. This is indeed the first battlefield where our innovation of competitiveness takes part.”

“First of all, we began to break down the boundaries between organizations, considering collaborations between them in order to maximize their performance. As part of this, we selected various cooperative tasks that organizations under Product Development & Manufacturing can contribute to one another, and encouraged task-oriented workforce exchanges between collaborating organizations so that all members can actually work as one team. While these efforts seemed strange to us at first, we found that these efforts create synergy and improves work efficiency remarkably. The major reason for establishing Product Development & Manufacturing organization was to bring ‘full-scale optimization’ to the company, and we expect it will lead to a visible outcome in the near future.”

Jin has been playing important roles in the development and manufacturing fields of both DRAM and NAND Flash. He has accumulated vast amount of experience within SK hynix’s two axes—DRAM and NAND Flash—and gained the unique ability to see the big picture of both semiconductor development and manufacturing simultaneously. For this reason, he is widely regarded as the best candidate for the “coordinator” position, which is responsible for coordinating the entire development and manufacturing organizations in the company.

Jin said, “As I’ve switched among different organizations frequently, I haven’t worked in one particular field for a very long time. Therefore, I do not consider myself as an expert of a certain field. Instead, I obtained experience across numerous fields that helps me see from the broader point of view than others. One of my strengths is that I understand the unique language of each organization so that I can then translate one organization’s language into the others’ quite effectively. Having worked for different leaders is another great strength of mine.”

Based on this skillset, he is attempting to make drastic changes and bring the radical reform to the company, by coordinating the entire development and manufacturing organizations.

First, he is building the roadmap to create the “product-oriented business system.” Previously, the company established and operated individual development roadmaps for technologies such as engineering, processing, and packaging. From the product-oriented perspective, the problem with this method was that no one could guarantee securing each element technology in time. To solve this issue, Jin is currently working on coordinating the technology development roadmaps based on the product-oriented perspective. In consequence, the company expects the timelines of product development and production will meet the customer requirements.

It is certainly crucial to secure product competitiveness, but shortening the time spent for developing and mass-producing new products is just as important. To do so, Jin attempts to ensure thorough verification of entire production issues before mass production, clearly identify mass production lines’ readiness in advance.

Jin concluded, “We are reinforcing verification processes to check problems that may occur during mass production beforehand, so that we can take appropriate actions in advance. In addition, we are working on identifying the readiness of mass production lines. The goal is to quantify mass production line’s readiness, and apply it to product development progress, in order to ensure that newly developed products quickly result in huge business successes.”

A “Mentor” Who Makes Happy SK hynix with a Firm Belief

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Lastly, SK hynix newsroom team asked Jin to define “Kyo Won Jin as a leader who leads numerous members of SK hynix including Product Development & Manufacturing.” He defined himself as “a mentor for all employees helping each member become happier by enhancing the happiness of the whole.”

“We all joined the company in search of personal happiness. However, there are limits to what can be achieved alone, no matter how competitive one is. We must work together to overcome that limit. You can improve your competitiveness and develop your capabilities while working together to achieve greater results. It’s a way for each of us to become happier.”

Jin was full of confidence when answering questions throughout the whole interview. He was filled with optimism for the bright future which he and his SK hynix colleagues would create together. We look forward to the day when the “bright future” he envisions becomes real.