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Never Give Up

Posted on 2019-06-24 10:30:00

How to turn a no into a yes, according to KL Bock, Vice President and General Manager at Western Digital.

KL Bock, Vice President and General Manager responsible for the Global Flash Captive Factories Operations in Western Digital, shares this interesting story when he first started out as an engineer in 1988: “I approached the leader and suggested that we should embark on Lights OFF Manufacturing, designing out the human dependency in manufacturing that has been repeatedly causing quality problem and cost inefficiences. The leader looked at me and said, ‘Go back to work!’ It was disappointing – such words could have killed one’s enthusiasm, initiative, creativity and will to make a difference.”

Bock decided to use that experience as motivation instead to pursue what he believes in. “I decided not to take his no as no but as the next opportunity. It triggered and ignited me to have the vision to dream, connect the dots to realise the dream, motivated me to put effort into action so that I can accomplish an impossible mission and turn it into possible,” shares Bock.

With many years and severals roles in the industry and manufacturing environment, Bock truly understood the nature of the business and what it lacked. In his opinion, quality issues and cost pressure have been imminent. “Customer expectations will never decrease but increase and intensify. With globalisation, competition becomes stiffer. The continuous struggle of perfecting the human predictability is nearing the cliff. The degree of difficulties is complicated by the migration of generation from X to Y to Z,” shares Bock.

It triggered and ignited me to have the vision to dream, connect the dots to realise the dream, motivated me to put effort into action so that I can accomplish an impossible mission and turn it into possible.

This rationale was what triggered him to push for automation in his industry. “It is the only way to get out of this and to drive cost efficiences,” says Bock. Fortunately for him, he was given the freedom to initiate and craft his strategy when he joined SanDisk in 2010 whereby he embarked with full passion in his Lights OFF Manufacturing journey. Lights OFF is a manufacturing methodology whereby factories that practise it are fully automated and require no or minimum human presences on-site (hence the understanding that the factories can run with the lights off).

Sticking to his guns resulted in his suggestion becoming a reality. As VP and General Manager in SanDisk, Shanghai, Bock oversaw the factory triple up in volume and double up in footprint as well as implemented the world’s first Semiconductor Backend Lights OFF Manufacturing, an idea he proposed more than 20 years ago as a young engineer.

On top of that, Bock was involved in the construction and expansion of Shanghai’s second factory as well as Penang’s first factory and operation start-up where he eventually returned to Malaysia to continue with the company’s Penang operations, oversee the construction of the second factory as well as to implement his Lights OFF Manufacturing initiative. In 2016, Western Digital acquired SanDisk.

“I master minded and successfully implemented the world’s first backend semiconductor Lights OFF Manufacturing and repeated it in another factory, another country. Together with the team, we creatively innovated non-existence industry 4.0 automation end-to-end solutions across all processes in both IC Component and SSD Manufacturing,” says Bock of his career milestones.

Asked what he thinks is the most important factor for success like the ones he’s had, Bock refers to the “ABC”. He explains, “A can do Attitude where you think the impossible is possible and have the mindset of doing more with less and paying more to less in everything we do; the right Behaviour in leadership with role models and leaders as teachers; and the Capability and Capacity to never stop learning to expand your potential and to never wait for opportunities to be prepared but instead to be prepared for opportunities.”

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