The advent of “smart” products and systems means semiconductor companies have an enormous opportunity for growth and profits. For many companies, however, there is a danger in gaining those coveted design wins: failing to meet expectations over the contract lifetime. One VP of Quality I spoke with recently was suffering from post-customer meeting blues as they once again disappointed an Asian customer. He’s now on a mission to update their information and communications processes and systems. I agree with him that’s the only way to take full advantage of new markets and applications.
Customers and consumers expect perfection. They are raising the bar just as semiconductor companies are tackling many new markets and applications. In operations, the increase in mix along with the customer-specific reporting requirements can wreak havoc. My experience is that most companies’ processes and information flows cannot keep pace. The explosion of data and the variety of new information customers need is bringing legacy and homegrown fab and back-end information systems to their knees.
What’s a facility to do? Apparently, invest in manufacturing execution systems or manufacturing operations management (MES/MOM). In research I led for MESA this year, all of the semiconductor companies who are piloting or testing MES/MOM are processing at least 10% more unique products than they did in the past.
What makes the situation more urgent is that customers in automotive, white goods, aerospace and defense, high tech, and other industries have quite sophisticated operations and MES/MOM themselves. Old plant floor systems in are common in semiconductor, but not in the customers’ factories.
In fact, while over 30% of semiconductor companies use systems over 10 years old, only about 9% of other manufacturers do. Semiconductor companies gained a big advantage using MES 15 or more years ago, but if you have not changed out that system, it is likely now to be a disadvantage in working with your diverse customers. Often, the old MES systems semiconductor companies use simply are not capable of meeting customers’ expectations about product quality and genealogy.
Getting the design win in new applications can market can actually be a problem if you can’t keep each customer happy. Consider that your fabs and back-end facilities are taking the brunt of this ramp up in requirements. They hold the key to customer satisfaction. In many companies, they need new MES/MOM tools to execute effectively. Those who try to keep up by patching old systems are doing a disservice to employees, and putting customer and consumer satisfaction at risk. Wake up to the investment you need to make to capture this enormous opportunity.
Semiconductor Industry Report - The Right Time to Change