ByDoug Bartholomew IBM and ClickSoftware are betting that semiconductor manufacturers will be willing to share process data with the makers of their production equipment if it means improved uptime. At Semicon West in San Francisco last month, IBM Corp., Armonk, N.Y., in an alliance with software firm ILS Technology LLC, unveiled e-Diagnostics, an online system that promises to improve the performance of semiconductor equipment and reduce field service engineering costs. "Semiconductor companies, equipment OEMs and the vast markets they serve have long sought total e-business solutions that can reduce manufacturing costs, improve product quality and increase returns on capital," says Lorene Steffes, general manager of IBM's Global Electronics Industry group. The problem, Steffes explains, is that up until now, "fab plants have not wanted to share data on what's happening in their plant." She says e-Diagnostics uses SecureNet, which includes a fingerprint-based security system that limits who is allowed to see the data and employs specific business rules to restrict the data that can be accessed. "Using remote diagnostics, the OEM can respond more quickly if they sense early that a part is going bad" and they can help the customer before a breakdown occurs. "There are huge costs in the fab plants when systems are down," Steffes adds. IBM's Microelectronics Division is using Boca Raton, Fla.-based ILS Technology's e-Centre e-Diagnostics system, based on IBM's DB2 database, WebSphere infrastructure software, and eServer computers. "Our work with ILS in our new 300mm manufacturing facility is designed to maintain tool uptime and throughput, allowing us to meet aggressive customer cost, time-to-market and quality levels," says Rich Brilla, director of 300mm operations in IBM Microelectronics. Nor was the IBM product alone in offering remote diagnostics for the semiconductor industry. Also at Semicon West, Canon U.S.A. Inc's Semiconductor Equipment Division demonstrated its use of a remote diagnostics system from ClickSoftware Inc. of Campbell, Calif. "Equipment suppliers can leverage their core expertise and solve problems online, while driving down the costs of unnecessary human and material resource with unscheduled maintenance," says Moshe BenBassat, CEO of ClickSoftware. "This monitoring of equipment means chip-makers get early alerts to problems, so they can intervene and avoid further waste." The ClickFix Web-based troubleshooting tool helps equipment makers to identify, monitor, and resolve problems. The software guides the technician through the troubleshooting process, listing faulty components and recommending action to fix the problem.