By Paula Doe
WaferNews Contributing Editor
The issue of waste handling is becoming more of a priority with numerous fabs, particularly in remote areas where containers are shipped long distances and thus can’t be easily recycled, and where waste treatment infrastructure is less sophisticated.
Indeed, the issue became especially critical in Taiwan, when the company that handled 90% of the country’s semiconductor waste treatment business was caught dumping waste solvent into a river and was closed down by the government last year, leaving local chipmakers with tons of waste piling up on their sites for months.
New companies and treatments have since been licensed for waste handling. But still, “We send escorts with all trucks taking out our waste materials,” said Peng-heng Chang, senior director of materials management at TSMC. “Since we don’t trust them not to dump it somewhere.”
TSMC has also started adding clauses about waste and containers to all its materials purchase order contracts.
Summing up the user’s view of its ideal relationship with its materials suppliers, Chang said, “We only want to buy the molecule.”
Increasingly this means not only total integrated gas and chemical supply management services and vendor managed inventory, but also vendor responsibility for waste removal.
Suppliers of target materials also report that now that customers are sending back used tungsten targets for recycling (with tungsten in such short supply), they are also asking suppliers to take back other kinds as well, even if they have no value.
“The one thing I’ll take away from this meeting,” volunteered one executive attending Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International’s recent Microelectronic Materials Strategy Symposium, “is how we’re going to have to think a lot more about removing materials from customers’ premises for them.”
With these new demands, device makers are at least talking about the problem of pushing even more responsibilities onto suppliers without compensation. “It can be a way of pushing responsibility onto the supplier and escaping responsibility for our own forecasts,” admitted Liz Cathers, National Semiconductor’s senior manager of supplier quality, referring to National’s vendor managed inventory program for several materials. “I think some changes in that area are coming.”
“We hate to see all the burdens put on the suppliers,” concurred Chang. “Anything one-sided is not going to last for long.” He noted that TSMC does guarantee some quantity of orders in return, but the ideal outcome is that more efficient management can reduce the total costs of the system, and thus reduce costs for everyone. TSMC now says it has a multimillion contract with Applied Materials to manage spare parts, and having one inventory in Taiwan instead of separate ones at every users’ own site should reduce costs for everyone.
If waste management issues push more users toward big full-service chemical management companies for more materials, it could slow down technical advances by limiting access to innovations at competing suppliers. “Fabs going with chemical management companies put a layer between the users and the developers,” said a senior executive at one smaller chemical supplier. “I don’t get full information directly from the fab, I don’t really know the users’ needs, and I can’t get into the fab with a new, better product. If a chemical management company controls all materials, there will be costs.”