It’s been over 2,000 years since the Roman poet Horace advised us to “make a good use of the present.” A recent post by consultant Julie Fraser reminds us that some, at their own peril, have yet to heed that advice:
“It’s somewhat surprising that the semiconductor companies have succeeded as well as they have for as long as they have. While I think the technological pace will continue in their products, their internal technology use must catch up or create grave risks for anyone using electronics in their products.”
Specifically, the internal technology Fraser references is manufacturing execution systems (MES), which she says are getting dangerously old in the semiconductor sector. According to research she has done for MESA International, more than 30 percent of semiconductor manufacturers report their MES is more than a decade old. That, she says, “is a ticking time bomb.”
This viewpoint echoes a post on this blog by where Mark Remson, NXP Semiconductors’ vice president of manufacturing IT, notes,
“There’s a major transition that has to happen in the next two to five years. There’s been much consolidation in the MES industry and the vendors are now driving to a different set of roadmaps that we need to contend with and plan around.”
In fact, many MES providers have announced the planned end of support for a number of product versions that are currently in use in semiconductor fab and back-end facilities.
The sheer volume of transition (marketplace, internal process requirements, customer expectations, vendor roadmaps) is making reassessment of current MES a hot item for most semiconductor companies. It should. Fraser says the risk of remaining static far outweighs whatever considerations are keeping companies from moving forward; this task, she contends, isn’t overly daunting:
“The costs are a factor, but the payoffs are huge. The companies that upgrade can actually see what’s going on, manage it, and provide customers the data they want about their products. All while allowing their system managers to sleep at night.”
Bottom line: defusing the ticking time bomb is easier than it might seem on first assessment. As Horace reminds us, there’s no time like the present to start the process.