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by Ricco Walter, on February 08, 2021

Digital Transformation for 200mm Fabs

Despite the migration toward 300mm fabs, 200mm demand continues to outpace supply across the industry. Beside long-lived products, new applications are also coming to the market, wanting to take advantage of the technology/cost benefits of the 200mm technology nodes. Key reasons responsible for this supply shortage include under-investment in wafer capacity in the last years, supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19 and geopolitical uncertainties, unexpected demand for work from home and entertainment gadgets, and improving visibility of emerging technology products such as AI-enabled chips and 5G.

Limitation on the availability of 200mm wafers is causing some production lines to sit idle, particularly American automotive lines. As the demand for 200mm wafers is expected to remain strong, 200mm fabs will need to make significant investments in technical infrastructure and take production full throttle in order to meet the needs of the market.

There are several challenges when you automate a mature fab. Often the effort is underestimated to overcome the manual fab operation thinking which people in the cleanroom are so familiar with for many years. While digital manufacturing, smart manufacturing, and Industry 4.0 aren’t new concepts, investments in 200mm fabs haven’t been focused on the adoption of long-term digital transformation strategies. We now see that 200mm wafers are here to stay and manual manufacturing processes are what have truly fallen out of favor across most industries.

Now, as smart manufacturing begins to establish a foothold in the semiconductor shop floor, Industry 4.0 technology is breathing new life into these 200mm workhorses.

 

Industry 4.0 | Strategy for 200mm fabs

Industry 4.0 – the automation of manufacturing through the use of smart technologies like artificial intelligence and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) – involves:

  • digitization of formerly analog processes,
  • automation by transforming human activities and knowledge into system performed actions and decisions,
  • and continuous optimization.

While some fabs have been rapidly deploying new IIoT and other technologies, they have struggled to achieve an effective overall digital transformation strategy that results in the harmonization of data, systems, and information across production lines and production sites. Yes, it’s cliché, but digital transformation is a journey not a destination. It is crucial that a manufacturer’s digital transformation strategy be considered a long-term, ongoing, and comprehensive effort centered around the overall business strategy. Achievements around automation efforts will necessarily be evolutionary and must be taken step-by-step. A successful digital transformation strategy will produce tangible results in the short and long-term and will support and simplify future extensions to the manufacturing IT landscape.

Read SYSTEMA’s Guide to Digital Transformation

Industry 4.0 | Data-Driven Manufacturing

The semiconductor industry is a leader in the pursuit of data collection. Often, however, fabs use only a fraction of the information they collect for the analysis and insights needed to improve operational efficiency. By comprehensively integrating all distributed data into a single version of truth – in one location where it is always available – fabs can much more efficiently conduct data analysis and problem-solving tasks.

The ability to quickly access and analyze historical data provides important context and reveals deviations such as unexpected process time, unwanted material accumulations, or issues with material transport. Taking it a step further, historical and real-time data together fuel machine learning and AI capabilities, enabling fab operations to shift from reactive problem-solving to proactive analysis and operational improvements. AI and other leading-edge technologies transform the tedious but critical process of extracting insights from data, making it instantaneous, streamlined and achievable for every manufacturer.

Smart manufacturing is data-driven, plain and simple. Smart manufacturing begins with a well-executed digital transformation project plan, including initiatives around the collection and synthesis of ALL data alongside the establishment of connectivity between systems and equipment. This core foundation enables real-time visibility into operations, the ability to make data-driven decisions about what to do and when to do it, and provides the basis for future automation initiatives.

For more than 25 years, SYSTEMA has been providing semiconductor manufacturers in both front-end and back-end with a full range of consulting and solutions to help maximize performance within their production environments.

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