IBM’s next lean-manufacturing frontier: Equipment procurement

by Debra Vogler, Senior Technical Editor, Solid State Technology

July 28, 2008 – Mark Dougherty, manager of the Fab Transformation Team at IBM in East Fishkill, NY, described how the company is implementing lean manufacturing principles in an interview with SST.

The general tenets of lean manufacturing (waste elimination and cycle time reduction) developed by Toyota play a prominent role in what IBM is doing. However, the company has taken things to another level, taking a blended approach by using “Six Sigma” principles in operations, as well as changing the very culture at the heart of the company’s “innovation value stream,” the process by which the company develops technology.

Included in the lean transformation are standardization of design kits and device-model process flows. In some cases, the stem-to-stern review has resulted in eliminating unnecessary checks or verification steps, tackling rework, and developing metrics for the quality and effectiveness of the processes themselves to augment the usual goal-oriented measures of success (i.e., the outcome of the process).

A key factor in the lean transformation at IBM is the proliferation of “Six Sigma” training in conjunction with a standardized “PDCA” (plan, do, check, act) problem-solving methodology. Even the process for interacting with equipment suppliers such as Applied Materials, TEL, and KLA-Tencor, has been aligned to reflect the PDCA technique, following the lean philosophy of suppliers as partners. Problem-solving teams directly engage the suppliers, so the end result is that everyone is using the same problem-solving methodology. IBM is also working within the Common Platform Alliance to train team members on the PDCA process to address common technology issues when transferring learning from IBM to the platform partners and vice-versa.

Applying lean manufacturing principles to equipment procurement procedures is the next frontier for IBM, according to Dougherty. “We haven’t modified procurement specs yet,” he told SST, “but we have worked with suppliers to reduce machine overhead and implement small lot size, single-piece flow, and reduced setup time.”

Though Dougherty is involved in 300mm manufacturing and development, he told SST that his peers throughout IBM also are working on the implementation of lean manufacturing for 200mm manufacturing in Burlington, VT, and as well as in the company’s worldwide packaging and test organization. Each area’s VP manages the overall lean manufacturing efforts accordingly. — D.V.


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