New “top 10” supplier ranks show Asian flavor, few surprises

by James Montgomery, News Editor

June 20, 2006 – VLSI Research’s annual rankings for the top 10 suppliers in various equipment sectors is out, and some new rules have caused some shakeups in the lists. Efforts to widen the range of geographic participation have helped some Asian companies crack the top ranks — although other companies have held their ground despite the influx of new high-scorers.

Varian Semiconductor, Nissin Ion Equipment, and Agilent Technologies led the packs in the eyes of customers for their wafer processing (large and small) and process diagnostics equipment (see tables below). Scores were calculated along a 10-point scale ranking each firm for various aspects of equipment performance and customer service, and were based on an equally weighted average — meaning responses from each company are averaged out for that company, rather than individually.

For large suppliers, Varian placed first for the ninth time in a decade (in 2002 it ranked second), taking top marks in seven of the thirteen ratings categories. “They’ve really focused on customer satisfaction,” noted May Chang, director of VLSI’s Customer Satisfaction Report. That achievement is even more impressive given VLSI’s new equally weighted methodology, which helps prevent “ballot-box stuffing.” She also pointed to Applied Materials, which has gained ground after falling off in recent years, moving up to No. 8 this year. AMAT “did really well in all the ‘equipment performance’ areas,” such as build quality, usable throughput, and product performance, as well as uptime and technical leadership, she noted.

ASML was the only large supplier that received its best scores in a customer service related category (“technical leadership”), while most others on the list excelled in the equipment performance side, particularly quality of results and uptime. New entrants to the large supplier list include Hitachi High-Technologies and Ulvac, while Canon and Lam Research slipped just below the top 10 after making it in 2005.

For smaller providers of wafer processing equipment, several new suppliers made the top ranks, including Nissin, Sumitomo Eaton (SEN), and SES, likely a result of VLSI’s efforts to encourage more survey participation from the Asia-Pacific region, noted May. Still, there were many European companies that made the top ranks (Oxford, Unaxis, S


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