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Factory automation is key to overcoming productivity challenges

Shekar Krishnaswamy shares insights on how planning, scheduling, equipment control and overall operations improve cycle time, factory output, costs and customer delivery.
Shekar Krishnaswamy shares insights on how planning, scheduling, equipment control and overall operations improve cycle time, factory output, costs and customer delivery.


The consumer electronics world as we know it, be it smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, memory sticks, it has shaken up many worlds, namely home electronics or people communication or social media, book publishing. It’s also shaken up the manufacturing world and in particular the semiconductor manufacturing world. One subset of the semiconductor manufacturing world is post-fab manufacturing, which traditionally is called Assembly and Test. Assembly and Test is undergoing rapid changes in many areas. First, the consumer electronics world is driving rapid changes in how semiconductor devices are packaged. Smartphones and tablet companies are always looking to how to make their gadgets smaller while adding more functionality.

This is changing the manufacturing floor and these changes apply to what kind of processes are being followed, what types of equipment is being used, how the factory is going to be laid out, what the operators can do, how they identify and fix problems. These are a few changes, but there are many more. Some of the newer processes are very, very sensitive to factors that affect product quality and need.

Secondly, these processes are being more and more outsourced to companies collectively called Outsourced Semiconductor Assembly and Test or OSATs. By 2020, according to some estimates, it’s expected that 65 to 75% of all semiconductor devices will be assembled and tested by OSATs. This means that the device manufacturers and the OSATs have to be in constant communication and coordinated with a lot of important factors such as production orders, capacities, order priorities, product quality, status of manufacturing, etc.

And any changes that happen have to be communicated in a very timely fashion. Thirdly, the combination of in-house manufacturing and outsourced manufacturing makes the supply chain very complex. One company has reported that just for a single product in one year, the product went through 15 successive supply chains.

This is really complex. Furthermore, the Semiconductor Assembly and Test is the last link in the supply chain before shipment to the customer. So any hiccups in the supply chain or any breakage in the supply chain has a big impact on customer delivery, satisfaction, and inventory.

In the past, many manufacturing and supply chain aspects were managed manually. But with the constant increase in complexity and the changes in the dynamics, these manual methods will no longer work. Manufacturing has to be agile and they have to anticipate this dynamic or otherwise customer satisfaction will be negatively impacted, waste will be generated, product inventories are going to be growing, and what this means is it’s going to negatively affect operating costs and profit.

Factory Automation at all levels such as planning, scheduling, factory equipment and control, they can help significantly in reducing the waste and consequently they can improve the cycle time, the factory output, cost, and customer delivery. With a proven track record for over 40 years in factory automation and fab manufacturing, Applied Materials is transforming the post-fab operations at many companies. Please visit our website at AppliedMaterials.com, click on the link for automation software for more information on how we can transform your company.

Thank you.

About the Author

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Shekar Krishnaswamy
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