When a manufacturing execution system (MES) is integrated with other IT systems, including its customer resource management, product life-cycle management and enterprise resource planning (ERP), manufacturers are able to derive increasing value in expanding those connections as they move toward full, end-to-end visibility. That visibility can enable a company to capture and integrate quality data throughout the supply chain, improving its ability to execute end-to-end performance analysis with results that, ultimately, fall straight to the bottom line.
Such visibility is vital in a highly competitive industry like semiconductor manufacturing, where technologies evolve at a dizzying pace. An MES serving such an advanced industry must be robust enough to provide real-time operational visibility on a platform that has the scalability to grow with the needs of the organization.
KLA-Tencor has experienced those benefits firsthand. Headquartered in Milpitas, Calif., KLA-Tencor delivers silicon-wafer and photomask inspection and metrology equipment, yield management solutions and support services to many of the world's chip manufacturers. As a supplier of process control and yield management technologies for the semiconductor and related nanoelectronics industries, implementing a new MES system has delivered a wide range of benefits to the company, including:
- Initial 18% productivity gain
- System ROI within six months
- Significant and ongoing improvement of cycle time
- Ability to respond faster to industry demand cycles
- Ramping up new products more quickly
- Faster cycles of learning to product maturity
- Improved consistency resulting in improved first-pass manufacturing quality
Improvement Through MES
The company's commitment to continuous improvement is what led to the implementation of KLA-Tencor's new MES, eQuality, built collaboratively by KLA-Tencor and Rockwell Automation on the FactoryTalk platform. The system provides improved supply-chain visibility, greater manufacturing consistency, improved on-time delivery and an improved customer experience. Using the advanced manufacturing process control, data acquisition and management capabilities built into the MES, KLA-Tencor can continue to meet its customers' demands for quality and innovation.
"For us, the ability to review real-time build-status, process performance, quality parameters and inventory is critical to serving our customers' needs and achieving our strategic objectives," said Peter Gaudette, KLA-Tencor's senior director of Operational Excellence and Customer Experience, and founder of the eQuality program. "The eQuality system provides us with this visibility."
When KLA-Tencor began exploring MES options, it determined it needed a system that would be able to connect information between manufacturing operations, supply chain and service. The MES would also need to connect to business systems such as ERP, product life-cycle management (PLM), and customer relationship management (CRM). It would have to provide a unified version of the data that all departments and users could access to make decisions, regardless of role or geographic location. That data would need to be visible online, 24-7, allowing collaboration across the organization to drive rapid cycles of learning and continuous improvement.
"We wanted to fully define and capture the supply-chain processes to answer questions, such as what specific devices were tested when, and by what people, processes and equipment? What was the result?" said John Moore, eQuality program manager, KLA-Tencor.
Key to the longevity of any MES is its ability to grow with the needs of its user. Such scalability is fundamental to the KLA-Tencor MES architecture and its underpinnings. It allows users to ramp quickly with demand in areas of expected-even unexpected-demand and growth. A flexible and scalable architecture can speed a manufacturer's ability to integrate supply-chain partners and acquisitions into the system. According to Gaudette, KLA-Tencor is able to get other business units or acquisitions up and running within a couple of months.
The eQuality system was piloted in 2000 and rolled out globally during the subsequent 12 months to multiple manufacturing locations simultaneously -- a huge accomplishment for a global company. KLA-Tencor continues to grow the eQuality system using its strategic planning process to create a prioritized list of improvements that have included, in recent years, linking to a powerful new reporting tool for advanced dashboard reporting and integrating KLA-Tencor's advanced statistical methods.
The project enjoyed one of the most significant ROI of any IT projects undertaken in the company's history. After it went live, the system paid for itself in six months. During the first several years of its use, a KLA post-implementation study documented a productivity savings of 18%. In the same time frame, the system further exceeded the team's expectations by providing vastly improved consistency and process repeatability, contributing to an initial cycle-time improvement of more than 50%.
Gaudette cited a list of achievements -- manufacturing process quality improvements, reducing the facility's footprint, better inventory management -- that would not have been possible without the new MES system. The results of the eQuality program implementation support KLA-Tencor in the highly competitive semiconductor space.
Darren Riley has more than 25 years of experience serving the manufacturing industry, including software development, program management, solutions development, and solution marketing. He is currently an operational consultant helping improve business and operations through automation and information solutions for Rockwell Automation. Rockwell Automation, Inc. is the worlds largest company dedicated to industrial automation and information. Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis., Rockwell Automation employs about 19,000 people serving customers in more than 80 countries. http://www.rockwellautomation.com
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