Collaborating to Move Smart Manufacturing Forward

Collaborating to Move Smart Manufacturing Forward

By Paula Doe, SEMI

Integrating new levels of automated intelligence across the increasingly interconnected electronics ecosystem isn’t something any single company can alone.  So industry executives on SEMI’s Smart Manufacturing Advisory Council are starting collaborative efforts to help ease the process.   

Projects underway include a guide to ease the automation of packaging facilities, a survey of the key requirements for machine communication standards for the Electronics Manufacturing Service (EMS) sector, and an exploration of a potential cooperative effort to combine expertise and share cost of developing automated intelligence software for shared use in some common baseline areas not core to specific IP, such as resource management.

Facilitating automation of the backend

One collaborative effort is developing a checklist to help guide backend facilities through the daunting process of automating their production, with a list of all the things that need to be considered and in what order. There’s low hanging fruit for the industry from adding more automation and intelligence in in-line monitoring and quality controls in the increasingly complex packaging and assembly process, to improve time to yield and margins for the companies, and accordingly to improve quality and traceability for the chip makers and systems makers that are their customers as well.

 “It’s an overwhelming task to start,” says Hem Takiar, VP, Packaging Engineering, SanDisk, who led the effort to automate Sandisk’s packaging facility and chaired a related guide for quality for the Global Semiconductor Alliance. “Should quality monitors be included in automating the process step, or left manual? What software is needed for communications upstream and downstream? Integration of communication with suppliers and customers must also be an integral part of the factory automation.  The automation suppliers know automation, but they don’t know what is critical in a company’s process and they can’t do this for you.”  

So Takiar is chairing the effort to create a checklist to help, looking for a few like-minded people to contribute their varied experience from across different parts of the supply chain, to build this guide for the benefit of the industry.

Bigger collaboration could bring bigger benefits

There’s potential for big gain from applying the emerging revolutionary artificial intelligence technologies to smart manufacturing all through the greater IC sector, but it is difficult and costly for each company to develop it all on their own. “The dream in 5-10 years is that fabs and packaging and assembly will use more smart automation, full connectivity, more sensors and applied artificial intelligence, notes Doug Suerich, Product Evangelist, PEER Group. “The problem is how to get there, especially the integration issues.”

“One place to start could be with resource management, electrical, chemicals or waste management where there are few IP concerns,” suggests Carl McMahon, president, Genmark Automation. He noted there is a common industry need to reduce consumption in key areas to avoid its volume growth being limited by critical resource shortages in the future. But this requires a wide range of knowledge about the materials and costs of each process step, the communication needed between tools, and where to best focus investment in development of deep learning software, that very few companies are likely to have all in house. The Advisory Council is exploring setting up a collaborative effort to demonstrate real cost benefits from shared development of such smart manufacturing installations that could be of wide benefit to the industry as a whole.

The ultimate goal is common communication systems across the electronics supply chain to enable smarter, more profitable manufacturing for all players. Source: SEMI

Collaborating on machine communication standards to integrate with the EMS world

Another effort looks at extending common machine communications standards to the printed circuit board assembly (PCBA) business, where a light version of SEMI GEM could be a quick and proven solution. “The distinctions among EMS, OSAT and foundry processes are blurring, as EMS companies continue to increase manufacturing volume of products with bare die, MEMS, and optical devices, requiring more IC-like assembly equipment, precision placement processes, greater cleanliness, and two-way communications between tools and factory systems,” notes Dan Gamota, VP, Strategic Capabilities, Engineering & Technology, Jabil Circuit. Meanwhile, customers want to be able to optimize the digital thread that links the performance of final products back through manufacturing to design. All of this now demands production tools that can communicate with each other and interface to factory analytics and data management systems.

The IPC’s 2-17 Connected Factory Initiative Subcommittee surveyed a wide range of sector stakeholders to collect input on the critical functionality required for a two-way machine communications standard for the EMS world. One major takeaway was the need for standards that kept up with the accelerating pace of technology change. “With technology evolving so fast, it would take too much time and too great an investment to start on something new from scratch,” he suggests. “It would serve the industry best if we started with something established that has shown its capacity to evolve, like a light version of SEMI GEM.” SEMI is working to bring the stakeholders together towards collaboration, starting with an upcoming roundtable with the printed circuit organizations in Japan, Korea and Taiwan to begin to build consensus.

The Generic Model for Communication and Control of Manufacturing Equipment (GEM) has evolved to enable quick adoption for the specific demands of different sectors in the electronics industry, saving engineering resources. Source: SEMI

"The end customer is demanding real-time visibility into the supply chain to understand where their chips and boards are. SEMI and its members are now focusing on how to create better communications across the industry," says Tom Salmon, SEMI VP Collaborative Platforms, who manages the effort globally.  

The Advisory Council aims to facilitate incremental improvement in smart manufacturing at the leading edge, and also to implement some of these advances without disrupting production at the not-so-leading edge fabs that are running at full capacity. It also aims to help the backend get the full advantage of the capabilities of the advanced front end equipment they are now buying. And it aims to enable the supply chain beyond the IC, from printed circuit board to final system assembly, and ultimately to connect this whole production chain through a digital thread so companies can see a complete supply chain dashboard, says Salmon. To learn more, contact Tom Salmon at

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Global Update
March 14, 2017