Foxconn exec Lu named distinguished alumni


by Laura Schmitt

Sidney Lu
Sidney Lu
Sidney Lu
Sidney Lu (BS Mechanical Engr. 1981) knows how to work hard. During his first year at the University of Illinois, he earned 58 credit hours—almost twice as many as a typical freshman. During his first three years at Foxconn Technology Group, a world leader in contract manufacturing services, he worked 80-hour weeks, averaging 310 work days annually.

His hard work has paid off. Lu is the corporate executive vice president of Foxconn and general manager for its Network Interconnection Business Group (NWInG)—one of the world’s top five employers. He is also a member of the board of directors of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Ltd.—the parent company of Foxconn. On April 15, his alma mater recognized his achievements by presenting him with a 2011 Mechanical Science and Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award.

As head of the NWInG, Lu is responsible for 100,000 employees working on interconnect products such as connectors, cables, wire harnesses, switch gear, antennae, and keypads for the computing, communication, consumer electronics, and automotive industries.

“If any of you have an iPad or iPhone, Sidney Lu probably had something to do with it,” said MechSE Head Placid Ferreira before presenting the alumni award to Lu.

According to Ferreira, Lu has played a key role in introducing scientific analysis and total quality control throughout engineering, product development, and manufacturing operation processes. Under his leadership, NWInG dominates the computing-related connector and cable field.

"When we first started, we were not even ranked in the top 50 of the connector industry," Lu said. "We are now in the top 5 and the largest in the computer industry. Also, we are recognized by IBM and Intel as the technology leader."

Lu’s 20-year career with Foxconn began as a design manager on connectors. Within 18 months, he was in charge of a development group of 60 engineers. A few years later, he took over a business unit that included manufacturing. By 2003, he was promoted to be in charge of the whole connector and cable operations.

Although Lu acknowledged that hard work and talent have played a role in his success, luck was part of it, too. “I was lucky that I found the right company to join at a time when they were small,” he said. “I joined Foxconn when it had $67 million in revenue; the company is over $100 billion now in revenue.”

As a student, Lu recalled getting valuable advice from a College of Engineering Placement advisor. “He told me to slow down and I did, which allowed me to take some valuable elective courses,” Lu said. “Those courses helped me become a good manager and executive later when I had to communicate with bankers and lawyers.”

One of those courses was Accounting 101, which gave Lu a fundamental understanding of financials such as balance sheets and income statements. In addition to his ME degree, Lu also earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics.

Lu's first job out of school was with Packard Electric Division of General Motors in Ohio, where he performed load flow and dynamic analyses of connectors. After seven years and three promotions, Lu left Packard/GM and took a manufacturing job with AMP (now known as TE Connectivity)—a leading maker of terminals, connectors, and related products found in electronics from toasters to supercomputers. He joined Foxconn in 1990.

“I’m grateful to Illinois,” Lu said. “I learned hard work here and I learned how to learn.”