How IT supports integrated global/local strategies and operations for Toshiba

by Bob Haavind, Editorial Director, Solid State Technology

At Toshiba, information technology (IT) plays multiple roles to support marketing and manufacturing within the complex, fast changing, highly demanding semiconductor marketplace. How many intricate tasks and strategies are interlinked to allow smooth global operation across many markets with fast response to customer needs was detailed by Giichi Inoue, of Toshiba Semiconductor Co.’s IT & Business Transformation Div., in the Fab Lite session at ConFab 2008 in Las Vegas.

As chip vendors ramp up production and lower prices for devices, many more potential applications emerge. Inoue used flash memory as an example, showing how the devices moved from digital cameras to mobile phones and mobile audio, plus the USB stick, and on to the solid-state disk and camcorders. Along the way, new technology generations came along, extending functionality and spreading applications through even more markets.

Toshiba’s IT group’s integrated approach supports an effort like this throughout a product’s life cycle, he explained. At the top is new market creation, requiring a variety of device types to satisfy market demand, with IT helping to speed products to market and also supporting customer service. This marketing phase involves setting up a supply chain, and IT-based pro-active links to customers. This phase might last about a year.

Meanwhile, an engineering chain evolves, with IT helping to speed up process development, ramp to yield, and the volume ramp. Various tools such as DFM, TCAD, APC, and others are applied as varied products are designed and rapidly transferred from development to mass production. This phase, according to Inoue, might last for some two years.

Then the products enter the build chain, with IT supporting mass production to achieve stable production, yield, and production efficiency. Another set of software tools, such as schedulers and automated materials handling systems controllers, provide a manufacturing infrastructure. This third phase might last 10-20 years, depending on the products.

All these phases are vertically integrated within Toshiba’s IT, according to Inoue, running across a common platform. An existing supply chain management model (SCM) was adjusted to the integrated system using a pattern and set of rules. Regular data maintenance thus enables automatic adjustment for fluctuations. Variations are resolved by using allowances for available capacity and lead-times, which helps achieve faster time to market with maximum efficiency, he noted.

By vertically integrating this SCM and production, Toshiba is able to achieve seamless linkage with the product development and mass production stages to respond quickly to market needs, Inoue explained. There is prompt and flexible response to demand/supply fluctuations. The response is appropriate, according to Inoue, for a mixture of multiple generations of products and also to accommodate the switchover from the development to mass production phases in the fabs.

Inoue observed that different cultural features are necessary to serve semiconductor markets, contrasting for example the Japanese and American models. The Japanese tend toward vertical integration, narrow and tight coupling, local and solid supply chains, case-by-case operations, and local community involvement — traits he suggested stem from an agrarian culture.

The Americans, meanwhile, favor a horizontal division of work, wide and loose coupling, universal and flexible supply chains, fixed-rule-based operations, and diversified society. This, he suggested, stems from a hunting culture.

The Japanese model contains necessary features, Inoue contended, for quickly changing leading-edge markets. The American model has features necessary for a diversified global market.

This insight led Toshiba to structure its operations with an integrated three-level strategy. On the global side, there are global customers and global rules, operations and communications. These global standards are then filtered through what Inoue called the “Multi-X” level, for multi-nationalities (Japan, US, Europe), multi-industries (semiconductor, automobile, etc.), multi-markets (memory, SoC, discrete, etc.) and multi-scale (large enterprises, small and medium sized companies). The filtering process adapts each category to appropriate local variations.

Before this integrated approach, customers were at one end of the supply chain and suppliers at the other end, with the factory viewed as a “black box” in between. Headquarters received weekly and daily SCM reports at the global level, and then did manufacturing planning that fed into local level operations (warehousing, procurement, etc.). Now, with integrated IT support, all the different activities and operations are inter-linked, leading to integrated supply chain management-production. This integrates local manufacturing variations and global supply chain management with “human power” leveraged by “IT power,” according to Inoue.

Inoue went through a number of examples of the types of adjustments that must be made in the case of a system-on-a-chip (SoC), for example. He showed how volume curves might be adjusted based on yield changes, how capacity might have to be added for a demand/supply shortage; and how inventory might have to be controlled after peak demand periods. Each product then goes smoothly through a life-cycle from development and pilot production to eventual replacement or abandonment.

He also showed how factory operations must be interlinked, with factory planning including the capability of proactive adjustment with human intervention. Manufacturing engineering goes through cycles of building models, making forecasts, optimizing, and then continuously improving processes based on data collection and analysis.

The automation system builds up knowledge, according to Inoue, using the principles of a “Monozukuri know-how” library. The handling automation is driven by operation automation, which is managed by judgment automation, and these are all linked to the SCM-Production (scheduling and planning) system. Sets of rules and constraints are applied, aided by the operation know-how library, to decide what should be done next. Operation execution is broken down into preparation, main work, and then post work, all feeding into the manufacturing execution system (MES), which drives the on-line equipment and the AMHS.

Inoue described the business modeling process that is used to turn “Monizukuri know-how” into a work flow/control flow platform and contents. He also showed how system development is built onto a business domain base, providing flexibility for handling business variation by plug-in methods, and thus providing flexibility to fit into business changes.

This approach enabled Toshiba to smoothly transfer its IT-based automation system and “Monozukuri know-how” as a package from Yokkaichi Fab 3 to Yokkaichi Fab 4, and similar transfers will now be possible to 200mm or to new 300mm factories as well, Inoue added. He summed up all this effort toward integration with an IT vision of the whole semiconductor group, interlinking customers through Toshiba’s total operations to its partners and outsourcing suppliers as well as its internal factories, warehouses, and headquarters. B.H.


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