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[Herald Interview] Edwards seeks bigger Asian presence with new plant

The decision to build a plant in Korea for manufacturing dry pumps for semiconductors was a natural one designed to give Edwards a leg-up in the Asian markets.

“Korea is geopolitically well-situated to be able to export to the (Asian) markets due to its proximity to the customer, ability to form intimate relationships with them and concentration on technology and right quality of people,” Mathew Taylor, chief executive of U.K.-based Edwards Group, told The Korea Herald. 
Mathew Taylor, chief executive of U.K.-based Edwards Group
Mathew Taylor, chief executive of U.K.-based Edwards Group

In other words, Korea has not only great manufacturing capabilities, but also strong technological capabilities, he stressed.

Edwards is a leading global company on vacuum pumps and exhaust gas technology, and is currently No.1 in the world in terms of sales and market share.

The company caters to mainly the semiconductor, flat panel display, solar, LED industries.

Taylor noted that the majority of these industries have gravitated to Asia, and within Asia, Korea, along with Japan, Singapore, China and Taiwan have emerged as the most significant markets.

Out of them, Korea stands as the single largest market, Taylor said, ticking off names like Samsung, LG and Hynix as the major players affecting both the global and local industries.

On Monday, Edwards Korea ― the Korean subsidiary of Edwards ― held a ceremony to mark the completion of its new plant in Cheonan for manufacturing dry pumps for semiconductors. The related facilities had actually been in the U.K. before they were moved here.

The $100 million project was expected to translate into new jobs for up to 400 people, bringing the total of Edwards Korea employees to 700.

The name Edwards does not ring a bell with the average Korean, but the company has been a presence here for almost three decades. Edwards Korea currently has a production capability of 4,000 pumps, annually.

Taylor said Edwards’ success was thanks to investment in new technology and a strong drive toward localization.

“We have a very strong local team of local people because we are serious about strong localization,” Taylor said, pointing out that Edwards Korea operates on with a predominantly Korean team, headed by a Korean CEO.

In his forecast for the semiconductor and flat panel industries, Taylor said the capital expense seen in the global semiconductor market will remain strong to see 15 percent growth this year.

Flat panels will, however, dip down a bit, he forecast, because this year was so good.

“It should go flat to down next year before picking up again in 2013,” Taylor predicted.

Edwards currently operates four manufacturing locations around the world, and the one in Korea will be the “world center of excellence for dry pumps for semiconductor and emerging technology applications,” the company said.

By Kim Ji-hyun (jemmie@heraldcorp.com)
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