EPTE Newsletter: COVID-19 Leads to a Long Trip


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The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt every aspect of life on a global basis. I’ve been unable to travel from Japan for the past four months, and most of my business appointments were postponed, with the exception of a few webinar meetings. The internet has kept me engaged and active with many of my associates, but a lot of business opportunities are still put on hold. Because of today's web-based video software, this type of customer and business engagement was impossible a couple of decades ago.

Unfortunately, I am not in the best of health these days. I travel to the U.S for doctor visits and treatments in Massachusetts. International travel is fluid, and it can be hit or miss. Many countries change their protocols frequently, depending on any hot spots for COVID-19. My scheduled visit to the doctors in Massachusetts was overdue, and my physician in Japan was not very optimistic about my trip, but I had to fly to the U.S.

First, I checked international flight restrictions. Surprisingly, the U.S. allowed foreign visitors from most countries. The second step was to find a flight to Boston from Narita/Tokyo. The selection was thin. Air Canada had the lowest price but the longest duration time—two connections with a total duration of 34 hours. Lufthansa offered a flight with the same duration, but only one connection in Frankfurt, Germany. The prices from American Airlines and United Airlines were much higher, but the duration was half the time. I decided to be frugal and chose Air Canada.

A few days before my departure, I received an email notifying me that the Montreal connection was moved to Toronto. This was no big deal since there was not a fee increase, and the travel duration was the same—easy, right? But it was not quite a seamless change because I ran into a problem at Narita Airport.

I arrived at the check-in counter four hours in advance and spent more than an hour with the agent at Air Canada trying to get boarding passes. They explained that I could not issue boarding passes fly to Canada for me because of a new COVID-19 regulation. Passengers had to have a special VISA to stay in Canada. I did not plan to stay in Canada, but there were two connections in Canada. They were recognized as domestic flights in Canada.

The agent advised me to seek an alternative flight through a travel agent in Japan. I explained my medical condition and asked for some additional assistance. She was very accommodating and promised to get me on another flight to Boston. Not only was she successful, but she accompanied me to the check-in counter at United Airlines with minutes to spare. The airline staff provided a wheelchair with a helper to move me to the gate. The helper knew a short-cut route for security check and passport control. When I arrived at the gate, passengers were boarding the plane, and I jumped in line. I was surprised by the number of passengers; over 90% of the plane was empty!

The flight to Newark was extremely comfortable, and I could lie down. We arrived at Newark Airport a half-hour early. Another helper was waiting for me inside the gate with a wheelchair. She managed the whole grand transportation to the next gate. The immigration agent asked me a couple of questions, mostly about the purpose of my trip. I passed it in two minutes. The helper picked my luggage up quickly and checked it quickly for the next flight.

The second leg of my journey to Boston was also smooth. The seats of the airplane were almost empty, and we landed at Logan Airport much earlier than scheduled. The last leg of my journey was securing ground transportation, which was nearly impossible. I had to rely on a friend to pick me up.

Overall, the trip was stressful, but it is now a distant memory. I was completely exhausted when I arrived at home. I had to stay in bed over the next few days. I appreciate the staff at Air Canada and United Airlines. I could not have completed the trip safely without their help.

Headlines

1. Nippon Koei (consulting firm for the construction industry in Japan) 8/5

Co-developed the flywheel energy storage device Flystab with STORNETIC, a German company (capacity: 3.6 kWh per unit).

2. Kaneka (material supplier in Japan) 8/12

Newly developed photovoltaic cell based on multi-crystal silicon was certified by Toyota as the roof power source of “e-Patette,” a new model of the auto-drive EV.

3. On-Semiconductor (semiconductor manufacturer in the U.S.) 8/11

Is considering selling its manufacturing plant in Niigata, Japan. The company is looking for a capable company to continue the supply for current customers.

4. JEITA (industry organization in Japan) 8/12

Unveiled the 2019 version of the roadmap for the printed circuit industry in Japan. Semiconductor packaging will lead the technology of fine lines.

5. Kawasaki Heavy Industry (heavy equipment supplier in Japan) 8/17

Started the field test of the all plastic secondary battery based on the next-generation lithium ion battery technology designed for unmanned submarines.

6. Molex Japan (connector supplier in Japan) 8/18

Unveiled a new high-retention force connector series HRF 7S and HRF 7L with 0.4-mm pitch for SlimStack boards.

7. Tohoku University (Japan) 8/19

Developed a new power-generation device that generates electric power using the temperature difference and works in dark circumstances at room temperature.

8. Tokyo University (Japan) 8/25

Co-developed a new high-performance organic semiconductor, C10-DNS-VW, for low-cost tag and sensor devices.

9. Littel Fuse (component supplier in the U.S.) 8/26

Released a new polymer positive temperature coefficient (PPTC) series Poly Switch zeptoSMDC Series in Japan for portable equipment.

10. SMK (connector supplier in Japan) 8/26

Rolled out a new connector series “RB-1 Series” for the BtoB connections of 5G antenna boards (pitch: 0.35 mm; height: 0.6 mm; capable of up to 12 GHz).

11. TSMC (semiconductor manufacturer in Taiwan) 8/27

Developed the N4 manufacturing process as the post-N5 process. The company plans to start production in 2021 and volume production in 2022.

12. JDL (display supplier in Japan) 8/26

Agreed to sell the company and manufacturing facilities to Apple and Sharp, a subsidiary of Hon Hai Precision in Taiwan.

Dominique K. Numakura is the managing director of DKN Research LLC. Contact haverhill@dknreseach.com for further information and news.

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