Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Western Digital to invest $179m in Thailand

NAREERAT WIRIYAPONG

US-based Western Digital (WD), the world's second largest hard-disk drive (HDD) maker, plans to invest $170 million (5.6 billion baht) to expand capacity in Thailand by 20% this year. Rajisr Bunya-ananta, vice-president for HDD operations, said the expanded capacity would serve increasing demand that has grown at an average of 15% annually for every category, including 2.5- and 3.5-inch drives.

WD, second to Seagate Technology in the global market but bigger than its rival in Thailand, operates HDD facilities in Thailand and Malaysia. Its manufacturing capacity in Thailand is substantially larger than its factory in Kuala Lumpur, he said.

Once the expansion is completed, WD's annual output in Thailand would rise by 20% this year from last year. Production in Thailand is exported, with one-third each going to Asia, North America and Europe, Mr Rajisr said.

WD owns two factories in Thailand: one in Bang Pa-in Industrial Estate in Ayutthaya, and the other in Navanakorn Industrial Estate in Pathum Thani.

Currently, Thailand produces more than 100 million drives for WD, accounting for roughly 80% of its annual output globally.

''We will continue enlarging our manufacturing capacity of HDDs in Thailand as long as Thailand provides a competitive production cost,'' he said.

''Over the past few years, the Thai government has provided strong support for the HDD industry in addition to tax incentives.''

Mr Rajisr said that support provided by Thailand's National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre (Nectec) helped establish an HDD cluster that to assist the industry with financial support, research and development (R&D), and human resources.

''That means that if any of our parts suppliers require any kind of assistance, they could approach this entity for help,'' said Mr Rajisr. ''While other countries provide only tax incentives, Thailand gives us more.''

More than 80% of the parts for WD's drive assembly in Thailand are sourced locally. Only head wafers and media are imported from the parent company in the United States, he said.

WD now employs about 30,000 people in Thailand. The company opened its first manufacturing plant here in 2002.

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