- Lam Japan has grown from nearly ten employees to over 500 in 30 years
- The company donated nearly $9,000 to local NGOs as part of the celebration
Lam celebrated 30 years of operations in Japan on March 29, 2021. This year, our employees celebrated the region’s milestone anniversary as the Japanese government loosened its COVID-19 restrictions.
In 1986, Japan became the largest semiconductor producer in the world, ushering the country into its golden era of semiconductor history. Five years later, in 1991, Lam began its modest operations in Japan by renting office space from Sumitomo Metal Industries, now Nippon Steel, and employing about ten employees. Two years later, Lam grew its operations, moving into a larger space in an office building near Yokohama. The new space housed the first demo lab in Asia, known as the Japan Development Center. The same year, in 1993, Lam launched an innovative transformer coupled plasma (TCP) tool, which excited our Japanese customers.
“Customers visited our lab almost every day and their requests were always very difficult,” says Yoshihiko Kitayama, Lam Japan’s regional vice president, who was a process engineer at the time. “However, we and our customers were thrilled with the new technology we had back then, a plasma source TCP etching system. It was a very challenging but exciting time."
However, the late 90s and 2000s saw huge disruptions in the global economy, including the collapse of the dot-com bubble and the “Lehman shock.” While semiconductors became more technologically advanced, the industry suffered a downswing. Japan’s semiconductor manufacturers faced a challenging time, watching the size of their business shrink. During that time, Lam Japan continued to provide high-quality solutions through collaboration within the company and grew to become an important part of Lam's global operations.
Masaki Danjo, VP of sales management, was there in 2001 when Japan’s semiconductor industry dramatically fell after the bursting of the dot-com bubble. "It was a painful time because we had no equipment orders for months,” he says. “I still vividly remember when we finally received an order after several months of silence from customers. We had a little celebration. It was also the first 2300 etch system order in Japan - the 2300 etch system was an innovative platform at that time."
Lam Japan’s Future
Lam Japan is now celebrating its 30th anniversary of operating in the region, expanding its footprint to ten offices across nine cities with more than 500 employees.
In June 2021, the Japanese government announced its "Semiconductor and Digital Industry Strategy,” its national strategy to boost Japan’s semiconductor manufacturing. We see this heightened government interest in semiconductors as a growth opportunity for the company. We’re proud of the contributions we’ve made to strengthen the Japanese semiconductor industry and are excited to continue to push the boundaries of physics and chemistry to support chipmakers in Japan and our global customers.
Chika Kubota is the senior manager of Corporate Communications for Japan at Lam Research.