It is pleased to introduce the coverage of Mr. Seiji Tanaka, president from ABLIC by EE Times and EE Times Europe as of February 7th, 2024, a leading online media for the electronics industry in the United States of America and European market as follows.
After achieving high profitability over the past six years, ABLIC sets its sights on Europe for further growth
ABLIC is an analog semiconductor manufacturer whose roots lie in the Seiko Instruments Inc. semiconductor business. It branched off from Seiko Instruments in 2016 to begin operation as SII Semiconductor Corporation and subsequently changed its name to ABLIC in 2018. Today, ABLIC is developing products that leverage our advanced analog technology which has been developed over many years since the Seiko era, to achieve ultra-small packages and low-power consumption, all of which, sharpens its competitive edge to expand into target markets. In June 2023 we discussed ABLIC’s business strategy for 2024 with Seiji Tanaka, who was appointed as the new president in June 2023.
Six years as ABLIC
– Six years have passed since the company changed its name to ABLIC in 2018. Looking back, how do you view these six years?
Seiji Tanaka: It has been six years of dizzying changes in our circumstances, including the change in our parent company. From our perspective, branching off from Seiko Instruments to become an independent manufacturer of analog semiconductors has bestowed the significant advantage of fostering a sense of unity. Our employees take pride in the ABLIC brand and are forging ahead with the expansion of the business with a new purpose.
Our parent company is now MinebeaMitsumi Inc., which created an “Eight Spears Strategy” based around ‘eight areas’ designated for core businesses, of which analog semiconductors is the third spear. The profile of the analog semiconductor business has risen steadily within MinebeaMitsumi, and I expect the role played by ABLIC to simultaneously increase in importance. We are making progress by constantly strengthening our business platform and addressing generational changeover at multiple levels.
– You were appointed President in June 2023. What strategies will you pursue going forward?Seiji Tanaka: The most important strategy is to strengthen the development capabilities for high-value-added products. A key partnership was formed in April 2023 when we merged with Samurai Semiconductor Corporation (SSC), which is engaged in semiconductor design at a global level. Developing high-value-added products requires cutting-edge analog technology and knowledge of large-scale logic and communications circuits. The merger with SSC, whose semiconductor design knowledge and technological capabilities are highly advanced, is an important step towards augmenting our capabilities for developing high-value-added products.
– What sort of products do you expect as post-merger synergies with SSC?
Seiji Tanaka: One example is analog front-end (AFE) ICs for monitoring batteries. AFEs for large batteries of the kind used in vehicles and solar power generation equipment are highly integrated, requiring digital and communications technology, test technology that facilitates mass production, and other technologies that we could not fully address alone with only the technical capability held by ABLIC. The merger with SSC will lead to a speed-up in the development of such technologies, accelerating the development of high-value-added analog semiconductors equipped with new functionality.
– Which of ABLIC’s high-value-added products have received the most interest over the past few years?
Seiji Tanaka: One example of these would be ultrasound transmit ICs used in ultrasound diagnostic equipment. The market for ICs used in medical equipment is expected to grow, and our products have been highly rated by customers. We will support medical professionals by focusing on the creation of products that utilize our strengths in miniaturization and low power consumption, to enable high-resolution images and more accurate remote diagnoses, especially regarding the handheld ultrasound diagnostic equipment that is expected to become more prevalent in the future.
We are also seeing rising interest in power management ICs for automotive . We began a full-fledged expansion of power management ICs designed specifically for automotive use around 2009, and our development capabilities have become stable enough to release a steady stream of new products. The electrification of automobiles is leading to a never-ending demand for automotive semiconductors used in vehicles. Our lineup of automotive products that target this growing market is expanding steadily. In summary, we are accelerating the development of our automotive products with an eye on achieving further growth within this market.
– Please remind us of ABLIC’s strengths.
Seiji Tanaka: In terms of engineering, our strengths are in low-power consumption technology and ultra-small package technology, which we have been cultivating since the Seiko era. Following our corporate vision of “Small, Smart, Simple”, the development of small, user-friendly devices with low power consumption is the area where we demonstrate our strengths most persuasively. We are obsessed with achieving peak quality in our products, while addressing our customer’s needs with the sincerest attention, at all times.
ABLIC’s history stretches back half a century starting with the development of CMOS ICs for quartz watches during the Seiko era. We take pride in our dependability as an analog semiconductor specialist and our respectable track record in the market.
Expanding target markets to include Europe, and strengthening development structures
– What will be the main business strategies in 2024, and on which products will you be focusing?Seiji Tanaka: First we will strengthen our automotive business in Europe. To achieve this, we have begun to address the VDA 6.3 process audit, and have also obtained development process certification under the ISO 26262 functional safety standard. In Germany, we have also built a complete local support structure, with sales representatives and field application engineers stationed on a full-time basis at our Frankfurt office. We are developing an online system that can quickly and flexibly address our customer needs, by both adding more readable information and expanding the lineup of automotive products on our e-commerce site so that required samples can be delivered at short notice.
As well as automotive ICs and medical equipment ICs, another area of focus is battery-less water leak sensors . This product incorporates our unique CLEAN-Boost* energy harvesting technology. Instead of relying on a battery, this revolutionary wireless water leak sensor utilizes minute amounts of electricity generated by the water itself. Because these sensors are easily retrofitted to pipes and other features, enabling rapid deployment in desired locations, they have been widely adopted for use in existing factories and buildings in Japan. In 2023 we began supplying a packaged product that combines the sensors with a receiver system. Currently, this is only being sold in Japan, but we are considering overseas sales moving forward.
*) “CLEAN-Boost*” is a registered trademark of ABLIC.
CLEAN-Boost* technology operating principles
– What are your thoughts on the organization and on capital investments?
Seiji Tanaka: In 2023 we reinforced the organizational structure of the development team. We appointed an individual with extensive experience in the planning and development of medical equipment ICs as CPO (Chief Product Officer), tasked with the supervision of development as a whole. Our objective is to apply the experience of the CPO laterally to assist in planning and development for other fields, and to promote the development of high-value-added products through co-creation with our customers.
As for production, in addition to carrying out wafer processes at our plants, we will continue to make use of external foundries. Some of the new products that we will launch into the market going forward require new processes in terms of performance and power consumption, and for that we will use the strength of the foundries. We are currently preparing to introduce renewable energy at both our wafer and package processing plants in order to achieving carbon neutrality.
Six years during which the company put on muscle
– How do you view results and semiconductor market conditions in 2024?
Seiji Tanaka: The inventory correction that continued throughout 2023 has ended, and we will likely see a resurgence in demand among customers in 2024. In the semiconductor market, downturn reversing and sharp increases in demand are often seen. We take note of client needs, making careful preparations, including stocking up of wafers, to be able to respond to potential surges in demand.
The MinebeaMitsumi Group as a whole is targeting ¥250 billion in operating income for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2029. As for ABLIC, by developing high-value-added products and improving operational efficiency we have increased operating income significantly since 2018, and we aim to grow further, continuing to make a significant contribution to the semiconductor business.
Today, six years after ABLIC set sail, we have strengthened both our product lineup and our organization as a whole, putting in place a strong business foundation that is not easily influenced by market conditions. As a company, I suppose you could say that we have successfully put on some muscle. Looking into the future, I hope that ABLIC will provide products to more customers around the world, including customers from European nations, and continue to forge ahead towards achieving a more sustainable and technologically advanced society.
This article was originally published in EE Times and EE Times Europe on February 7, 2024.
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