Panel Focuses on Sustainability and Innovation

Panel Focuses on Sustainability and Innovation

Innovation—Not Just for Devices, Processes, and Materials Anymore

At a SEMI global executive conference, the semiconductor manufacturing industry acknowledges the opportunities, the challenges, and the immediacy of the need to be sustainable. It will be difficult, but it is necessary.

“It is now time for all companies in the semiconductor manufacturing supply chain to recognize the scope and extent of sustainable manufacturing issues and to adjust their businesses and their perceptions accordingly.” This was only one of the major points that were developed and analyzed at the Sustainability Executive Panel at the SEMI International Trade Partners’ Conference, held November 4–7, 2008 in Maui, Hawaii. Leaders from all over the world convened to learn and collaborate at the annual conference that addressed global semiconductor manufacturing, technology, and trade issues. This year, one of the key issues was sustainability.

The recognition by many companies that “green” models will result in better products and satisfied stakeholders is widespread; and, that fact is contributing to a “critical mass” approach in the supply chain.

Norm Armour of Applied Materials began by defining the scope of sustainability, and by offering a brief view of the opportunities for improvement in the semiconductor manufacturing industry.

Echoing that view, Shegihito Ibuka of TEL described the approach that TEL executive management has taken to directing that organization to be green—or even greener than before. As a semiconductor equipment supplier, TEL sees how small improvements in sub-components throughout a finished tool add up to large and valuable reductions in energy and materials use.

Seung-Ki Chae of Samsung Electronics explained the underlying drivers of Samsung’s sustainability efforts as integrating device performance, manufacturing productivity, and green technology to produce the best products as cleanly as possible.

This effort, Chae explained, is perhaps paradoxically made easier by the new technology that is being developed for semiconductor manufacturing. While more and new materials are being used in fabs today, it means that sustainability considerations are beginning to move to the forefront of process development efforts—so it is likely that process will be more green from its inception and that any necessary post-implementation mitigation efforts will be minimal.

Chae further explained Samsung’s goals in electrical energy consumption as reducing per-wafer energy cost by 5 percent per year from the 2004 baseline through 2010. To keep on that path, and on similar paths for other reduction efforts, Samsung sees a strong need for cooperation and collaboration through the supply chain. Materials suppliers need to provide more information, assess risks, and safely deliver known materials. Equipment suppliers must work with the materials suppliers to characterize wastes and usages for the tool and the materials to minimize environmental footprints. Device manufacturers must set and maintain their green targets even while developing product and technology roadmaps.

A similar view was espoused by Yu-ichi Mikata, general manager, Environment Planning Promotion Division, Toshiba. The savings available through intelligent application of proven EHS principles is reducing CO2 emissions by many tons today, and through energy saving innovation. Toshiba has made great strides in recognizing the opportunities that are presented by the effort to be a sustainable manufacturing operation, and their efforts are already bearing bottom-line profit results.

As a business-wide effort, green approaches become everyone’s business—inside and outside the organization. Citing numerous studies and reports, Peter Williams of IBM demonstrated how “being green” was no longer optional for semiconductor manufacturers (or any company). Many stakeholders—customers, investors, employees, local and national governments and NGOs—now routinely ask about the environmental impacts of manufacturing plants and projects. This means that green is not about just energy emissions, or manufacturing activities—it is a business-wide issue that requires multi-disciplinary coordinated knowledge and effort. Even activities such as brand and positioning strategy, partner management, and after-sales support can have a serious impact on the lifetime systemic energy use and carbon footprint of a product; so, all of these attributes must be considered in early product planning stages.