In 2009, implement strategies to improve equipment productivity

Abdi Hariri, Group Vice President, Customer Support Business Group, Lam Research Corporation, Fremont, CA USA

Managing costs and optimizing productivity are increasingly important in enabling semiconductor manufacturers to retain profitability. New strategies and timely solutions are needed to meet their objective of optimizing fab output through enhancing equipment productivity and asset life extension. To meet these challenges, we anticipate 2009 will see greater collaboration between equipment suppliers and semiconductor manufacturers, leading to innovative solutions to address these important factors.

Maturing of the industry has already brought significant efficiency in a number of areas. Many tool sets already deliver high productivity. Factory automation, sophisticated scheduling tools, and a host of productivity advances are already in place. To capture additional efficiencies and maximize equipment effectiveness, suppliers will need to play a more strategic role through high-trust relationships with semiconductor manufacturers in providing innovative solutions close to fabrication sites.

Knowledge management systems are becoming an increasingly important source of installed-base learning, facilitating the delivery of point-of-use solutions at significantly reduced cycle times. By leveraging designed-in equipment intelligence, global learning networks, and supplier tool expertise, significant equipment optimization can be achieved. Best-known methods (BKMs) for a range of equipment operations, including productivity solutions, can be efficiently deployed through service and training programs and used to develop new cost-management strategies.

Collaboration is critical to improving productivity. We believe in re-engineering consumable parts to lower costs, developing upgrades that increase productivity, and applying BKMs that improve overall tool productivity and availability. Collaboration also enables suppliers to recommend programs that optimize fab spending.

Market analysts, such as Gartner, predict significant growth over the next few years for the industry’s refurbishment and upgrades business as chip manufacturers turn to more aggressive asset management strategies to improve return on equipment investments. (In September 2008, Gartner noted that the refurbished equipment market is expected to increase at a 14% compound annual growth rate during the next five years, outpacing the growth of wafer fab equipment.)

These strategies include extending the useful life of tool sets by upgrading/refurbishing to improve reliability and predictability and reconfiguring to extend capability. For example, one Lam Research customer improved good die yield with an upgrade, then replicated the yield improvement across all fabs by deploying the upgrade globally.

Through greater collaboration and a willingness to share risks as well as rewards, it is possible to achieve additional fab efficiencies utilizing innovative approaches to reduce costs, improve productivity, and manage equipment investments.


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