Delta Electronics CEO Bruce Cheng is known as the godfather of energy conservation in Taiwan business circles, having made environmental protection, sustainability, and energy savings cornerstones of his power supply company.
The engineer and entrepreneur founded his company nearly 40 years ago to supply TV components for the Taiwanese market. Delta (www.deltaww.com) is now the world's largest provider of switching power supplies and DC brushless fans, and its business includes display solutions, LED lighting products, and solar energy systems.
Cheng has pioneered lead-free manufacturing and mercury-free LCD components in the industry, and his Taiwan and USA offices and production facilities have won praise for their energy-saving designs. He leads by example. Cheng was the first person in Taiwan to own a Toyota Prius when he imported the hybrid from the United States in 2004.
Delta Electronics, Inc.'s mixed-use office and factory building in Tainan, southern Taiwan, is a certified "gold-rated" green building and was named "2006 Green Building of the Year" by the Taiwan Ministry of Interior. The building saves 50% more water than conventional buildings and achieves up to 31% in energy savings.
SPIE Professional asked Cheng to share his business successes and challenges and his rationale for becoming a "green" entrepreneur.
SP: What motivated you to leave TRW and start your own business in 1971?
BC: I worked in TRW for five years and learned a great deal in production, engineering, and quality control from that experience. During the late 1960s, Taiwan's TV industry was booming, and along with it came issues such as component shortages and the high cost of imported Japanese knock-down kits. TV manufacturers for our domestic market suffered the most. I took this as a good opportunity to start my own business to help domestic manufacturers solve their component-supply issues.
SP: What kinds of optical technologies, products, and/or innovations are at the forefront of Delta Electronics' business today?
BC: Delta Electronics has been investing significant resources to develop technologies and products that are energy efficient and friendly to the environment. Examples of our efforts in optical businesses include LED lighting, high-performance display products, and e-paper applications.
In LED lighting, Delta offers both street lamp and indoor solutions. Our LED street lighting surpasses all other current products in efficiency. We also introduced a series of LED indoor applications with innovative features that enable better lighting quality with reduced electricity consumption.
Delta provides a wide range of high-performance display products such as HDTV, a video wall, home theater projector, and large venue projectors for the professional market. We also developed the industry's first full HD LED Home Theater DLP Projector featuring an energy-saving, high-resolution picture with a wide color gamut and extra-long lifetime.
For e-paper, we have partnered with Bridgestone Corp. to develop QR-LPD (quick response liquid powder display) technology which is reflective in nature and therefore consumes much less energy than LCD screens because it does not need any backlight. Prototypes of e-readers, e-labels, and signage are almost ready and we will bring these products to market very soon.
SP: You have been called the "godfather of energy conservation" and Delta has won several awards for adhering to its mission to provide "innovative, clean, and efficient energy solutions for a better tomorrow." Can you discuss your reasons for putting such an emphasis on energy conservation for your company and provide some examples or results of that focus?
BC: Delta was founded in 1971 at a time when lots of foreign electronic companies came to Taiwan to set up manufacturing bases. We started from scratch to develop electronics components to meet market demand. We witnessed the massive abuse of natural resources and severe environmental pollution at that time, the result of industrialization. We also experienced energy shortages due to a rapid increase in demand. We believed energy conservation was the best solution to the problem, and we made it our corporate mission to develop high-efficiency switching power supplies and provide the world with energy-efficient solutions. We then extended our product lines from power supplies to display products and LED lighting, driven by our firm belief in energy conservation and environmental protection.
R.C. Liang, CEO of DelSolar and Delta's CTO (left), and Delta Electronics CEO Bruce Cheng (center) discuss the company's e-paper with SPIE Executive Director Eugene Arthurs.
SP: Delta has also been a leader in business practices that protect the environment. What environmental practices does Delta use in its operations, factories, and offices?
BC: We built the first green factory in Taiwan; our Fremont office in California (USA) won green business certification from the county authority; and development of our corporate green map was a world first. Delta is a pioneer in lead-free manufacturing, and we apply higher standards to our operations than international standards such as WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) and RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances). We designed and built an energy recycling system to reclaim up to 85% of electricity used in the burn-in process. We also applied insulation materials on equipment used in soldering and plastic injection molding processes to reduce heat dissipation as well as create a more pleasant working environment for our employees. Not to mention that Delta has installed solar systems in all of our offices and factories worldwide to generate renewable energy.
SP: What effect have these practices had on your bottom line?
BC: Our green practices not only help us reduce cost but also give us a competitive advantage in earning more business. For example, Delta is a certified green partner to SONY and has priority over other suppliers in business considerations. Because people are increasingly conscious of energy conservation and environmental protection, customers are inclined to do business with reputable green corporations, and they are also willing to pay a reasonable premium for the benefit they get. Delta is able to grow and make a profit from practicing what we preach as a socially responsible green corporation. In addition, our reputation as a "green corporation" has also helped us attract talent to join Delta.
SP: What Delta products or processes that are environmentally friendly or particularly energy efficient are you most proud of?
BC: Delta is the world's largest maker of switching power supplies with market-leading efficiency of 90% and above for most of our power supplies. Each year, we invest heavily to advance our technology and the results so far are satisfactory. Among recent progress, our achievements in telecom power systems and PV systems are particularly noteworthy. We not only increased the efficiency of our new generation telecom base station power system from 90% to 92%, but we also reduced the size by two thirds and achieved market leadership in both China and India, the fastest growing markets in the world. We also successfully completed the world's largest stadium solar energy system for the 2009 World Games in Kaohsiung. Although the capacity of this solar energy system was 1 megawatt by design, the actual electricity generated exceeded our expectation. These examples clearly demonstrate our orchestrated efforts to realize our corporate mission of providing innovative, clean, and efficient energy solutions for a better tomorrow.
SP: What was Delta's role in the solar roof for Kaohsiung's World Games Stadium?
BC: Delta designed and installed the entire solar system for Kaohsiung's 2009 World Games Stadium. This rooftop system consists of solar cells from DelSolar, a subsidiary of Delta, and Delta's own photovoltaic (PV) inverters with 98% conversion efficiency. Since the project was completed in October 2008, it has been generating an average of 3,200 kW hours of electricity per day or 1.1 million kW h per annum, which is more than enough to fulfill the needs of the stadium itself. Excess electricity is then transmitted back to the grid. We estimate this system can reduce 660 tons of CO2 emissions. Encouraged by this success, Taipower recently engaged Delta for a project to build a 1.5 megawatt solar energy system on the rooftop of its largest coal-fired power plant in Taiwan. The field work officially kicked off in April 2009 and the whole project is scheduled to be completed in May 2010.
SP: Is the global economic turmoil causing you to cut back on your R&D, professional development for employees, donations to universities and charitable organizations, or any other aspect of your business?
BC: No, absolutely not. We have not reduced our investment in R&D and human resources development. On the contrary, we are speeding up our pace in new product developments and expanding our talent pool with professional, new recruits to strengthen our capabilities. We believe human capital is our most precious asset, while technology is the foundation of the company, and new products are what our future relies on. We have also increased our professional development activities during the economic downturn as employees are more available and better motivated to learn than at times when they are fully occupied with business obligations. We consider these investments critical for our continued success and we are confident that when the market turns up, Delta will stand out even stronger than before.
SP: What is the key factor to Delta Electronics' growth and success?
BC: Delta set its mission to provide innovative, clean, and efficient energy solutions in its early years and consistently put it into concrete action. This provides a clear direction for us to devote our efforts and resources coherently. I believe our culture of innovation, quality, teamwork, agility, and customer satisfaction is the key to our growth.
SP: What are the biggest challenges to Delta's continued growth and success?
BC: I would say change is the biggest challenge for Delta, and probably for most other companies as well. Technologies evolve at unprecedented speed and the marketplace is even more dynamic than before. Flexibility and adaptability are probably not enough anymore. To stay ahead, we have to gauge the trends and guide the organization in anticipation of the new world soon to come. My worry is that our people may be so used to and proud of our past success that they will not dare to change. So I want to take this chance to remind and encourage our people to change and change quickly. Only those who continue to spot new trends and act quickly and decisively to grab the opportunities can win in the future.
SP: What kind of entrepreneurial risks did you take at the beginning? How are those risks different or similar to the risks that Delta Electronics takes now?
BC: Funding was actually the single largest risk I had to manage in the early days. I was lucky enough to have a fully devoted team to work around the clock and deliver what we promised to customers. Despite that, we did suffer from capital shortage and cash flow problems. Fortunately, our financial condition improved as we earned more business due to our superior product quality and services. Money is not a restrictive factor to Delta any more. As I said earlier, I think the ability to foresee market requirements and change in anticipation of the trends is the key to future business success. Delta is still not good enough in this regard. We have lots of room for improvement in our speed and boldness to change. I am sure our people will take up the challenge to change with courage and confidence as long as we have our minds set on it.
Delta Electronics founder Bruce Cheng is firmly committed to socially responsible and sustainable business practices.
Cheng donated NT$250 million (US$7.6 million) for a research building at National Cheng Kung University earlier this year. Two years ago, he donated NT$100 million (US$3 million) to construct a separate building at NCKU, the Y.S. Sun Green Building Research Center, and in 2001 he donated one million shares of Delta Electronics stock to establish a technology lectureship.
Cheng earned a B.S. in electrical engineering at NCKU and received an honorary doctorate there in 2007. He was named the NCKU Outstanding Alumnus in 1995.
Taiwan's CommonWealth magazine named Cheng the "Most Admired Executive" in 2007 and 2008, and the business periodical named the company the most admired in the electronics industry for six consecutive years.
The Committee on Small Body Nomenclature of the International Astronomical Union approved the name of "Chengbruce" for asteroid 168126 in July 2008.
The spiraled, dragon-shaped roof of the main stadium for the 2009 World Games in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, is carpeted with 8,844 solar panels from Delta Electronics, covering 14,155 square meters.
The eco-friendly building is the largest stadium in the world entirely powered by solar energy. It generates 1.14 million kW h of electricity annually for stadium use and for powering up to 800 nearby households.
The NT$300 million (US $150 million) facility has two JumboTron screens, and Delta's photovoltaic system illuminated the opening and closing ceremonies of the World Games as well as the rugby and flying disc events with 3,300 lux in July.