Manufacturing Execution Systems


Design of global manufacturing execution system to coordinate global semiconductor manufacturing

Introduction: manufacturing execution systems (MES)

MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems) is structure adopted in a factory floor that monitors and manages the work-in-process. This may include the automatic and manual forms of labor as well as production reporting. It may also include links to tasks and on-line inquiries and follow-ups. Manufacturing Execution Systems are used to control work orders, shipping, scheduling, and receipt of goods, quality control, maintenance as well as other related activities. A Manufacturing Execution System is synonymous to a PDES (Process Development Execution System). However there is a distinguishing factor that separates the two. A PDES is normally tailored for the navigation and development of a manufacturing process. An MES is tailored and developed for to execute volume production by employing the already existing or developed processes therefore a PDES may be said to be focuses on low volume production but with a greater flexibility and freedom of experimentation (Kalpakjian et al. 2005).

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Global semiconductor manufacturing on the other hand involves all the processes involved in coming with a chip popularly known as a semiconductor. Semiconductor manufacturing involves several steps. The first step is the production of silicon wafers that are extracted from the ingots of pure silicon. The next step involves the fabrication and integration of circuits on top of these wafers. The third step involves the assembly of the wafers, now integrated with circuits into a well finished product. The fourth and final step involves testing and the back-end processing of the product before it is released to the market. All these steps are complex and can be simplified by the adoption of a Manufacturing Execution System to execute and coordinate the processes (Howell et al.1988).

Reasons for adoption of an MES

There several reasons as to why an industry may decide to adopt MES. An industry may adopt an MES so as to automate the management of recipes or process manufacturers. An MES may also be adopted so as to schedule activities in an industry as well as the management of the existing priorities. An MES is also helpful during the process of production reporting. An MES is also used for tracking Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and materials or products. An MES will also come in handy for the exception or event management. An MES is also adopted so as to manage and measure an industry's OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness). The decisions to influence cost management and production can also be done by an MES. Finally an MES necessitates the easy managing of resources that includes personnel and inventories. In general an MES can be regarded as the system that links the plant floor control devices and the ERP. An MES has the capability of communicating with the two systems as well as linking them (Kaplan and Robert, 1990).

Design process

SEMATECH has established that the current goal in a semiconductor industry is to cut down the costs of the semiconductor chips by a margin of 5% from 25% to 30% on an annual basis. This necessitates the design of a manufacturing system that will help the industry to remain competitive within the tight market by increasing the production drivers. Industries are rapidly changing their manufacturing drivers from the conventional practices that were being adopted initially. This has led to the improvement of equipment productivity, increasing wafer sizes as well as the maximization of yields all geared towards achieving this objective. Moreover, there is the enlarging customer's role that must be stimulated at all times by ensuring quality semiconductors and efficient supply of the same. This is also associated with the shorter times that the product must reach the market as well as the need for high profit margins.

The need for higher scheduling stability, product developments, top quality and the increase in the number of products at reduced costs are the important essentials that have led to the adoption of MES. This is because a semiconductor manufacturer has to integrate all the complex requirements and steps so as to come up with a product that will sell, reap profits and ensure customer satisfaction. Therefore, a system that will see the optimization of the wafer fabrication and at the same time prove to flexible in terms of enterprise strategies and manufacturing, will also come in handy. In connection to these changes in the semiconductor ventures, the existing software systems are becoming obsolete in achieving the drastic requirements of the industry (Hayes et al. 1988).

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Therefore, some of the renowned software companies have chipped in to try and solve the bottlenecks involved in the manufacturing of semiconductors. One such software company is Oracle that has actually developed an exhaustive solution for the industries as well as for the specific industry product (Oracle Shop floor-OSFM). The Oracle E-business suite has now been adopted by 75 leading semiconductor industries worldwide. The customers are also used as advisory board members of Oracle and they design and give feedback to Oracle designers. This has led to Oracle achieving more customer friendly designs as well as offering significant enhancements in the already existing soft wares. The semiconductor industry recently adapted the 300mm manufacturing of wafers. This added up to the enhancements being made in other lines following the prioritization and recommendations received from advisory board members and customers.

Integration of customer response and manufacturing excellence in design

The changes facing the revolutionized semiconductor industry are not only based in reducing the size of the wafer but also aimed at the need for business excellence. This moans that in as much as the companies may revolutionized technologically by adopting new lithography tools, they must also focus in the profitability of the industries. This also illustrates the need for changing operations and business in order to achieve competitiveness. Another aspect that is driving all industries is the market pressure that is brought about by capital investments, cost management, operating expenses and cost management.

Though these trends are conventional, the current semiconductor market is being enforced by customers' intimacy, maintenance of global recognition as well as achieving higher product optimization. Many of the industries dealing with semiconductors are more focused on a timely basis on the customers business more than their own. These companies are facing challenges of reducing the turn–around time between orders and the actual delivery and at the same time maintain quality of the ICs. With the development and adoption of global manufacturing execution systems the lead time that used to be measured in days or months will now be measured in hours and minutes (Dertouzos et al.1989). The customers' responses are also being effected in real-time as the issues of timely manufacturing and delivery are becoming a global concern

The industries have also adopted a product mix. A greater impact of the revolutionized semiconductor is not only being felt in commodity products (microprocessors and memory) but more greatly also on specialized IC and ASIC market. These commodities are built-to-order and are manufactured in small quantities as compared to the microprocessors and memory. Therefore the time-to-market these commodities and make them competitive is really a challenge due to the relatively small customer market windows. This calls for the manufacturer to develop up-to-the minute relationship for feeding the customer with information about the product. This means that the information regarding their manufacturing, testing, sales, products as well as the supplier details must be on time globally. This will help the customers to build confidence in the product since their businesses will also flourish under the immediate product quality and availability. This new adopted technique is working wonders fro the semiconductor industry by developing a customer-driven business that works in real time. All this can be made possible by the adoption of MES techniques.

Or quite a long time the semiconductor industry has relied so much on the computer industry. With the advent of the global manufacturing execution systems, this dependence must be reduced if not finished at all. This is because of the new markets emerging from the automotive, communications and consumer markets is in line with the high production rates that will b achieved with MES. Therefore a new market that is customized for the parts in these emerging areas is being given way by the product leaders such as memory and logic. The new products are giving challenges to the manufacturers still using the traditional make-to-plan models since they require faster production times, lower quantities, competitive costs and short production cycles (Giffi et al 1990). This has led to the adoption of MES that operate on make-to-order models where aggressive supply chain modalities dominate in the linking of business and the levels of manufacturing.

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There is also the need for to integrate smoothly with the local systems or stand alone systems. Previously an industry would add new tools and some a little automation when faced with the challenges of revolution in the semiconductor industry. This would keep them in the same market strategies and also within the same manufacturing and infrastructure environments. However, MES with other systems such as ERP, CIM, supply chain and IT are normally driven by demand and can easily be integrated in local manufacturing facilities to provide solutions to the challenges. As a matter of fact, the conventionally home-grown and stand alone systems, will find it difficult to cope with the new business requirements. This is the business of global supply of products as well as the cross-functional of services. A customer-driven manufacturing environment of semiconductors is supposed to integrate order management, manufacturing execution and the mutual designing of processes. MES will just work well in such situations by providing the customer with a fast manufacturing turnaround and real time systems. This involves the global production of wafers, assembly and test, distribution, feedback, and the linkage to real-time supply planning. MES is also in a capacity to deliver such information to any semiconductor manufactures.

MES is an integrated information system that perceives the world to be a single unit. Current systems being used in the business enterprises as well as manufacturing operations are independent and site specific. Furthermore, the systems can not coordinate and monitor the supply chain on an immediate basis. Therefore the adoption of MES will see instant fabrication of the required product. The adoption of MES will also ensure that the convergence of manufacturing excellence and customer's response is achieved at all times. This will lead to addition of new customer base, increased revenue or profits, as well as increased throughput that will supersede the heavy capital investment in equipment and fabrication. As a matter of fact, many new products can be achieved by adopting the MES technology. However, adopting the MES technology does not only ensure that the establishment is a market leader but also ensures that the customer satisfaction is met at all times. Company willing to improve their systems to the up-to-the minute systems will find MES useful in achieving the convergence between customer response and business excellence. This is due to the reduction in lead times, improvement on inventories and planning as well as other accrued capabilities.

The semiconductor industry is faced with challenges both internally and externally when moving from the conventional systems to the adoption of new systems such as the MES integration. This is because of the focus that is dedicated mainly on customers' satisfaction and requirements. The adoption of MES will surely affect how a company performs business and how these new systems can be molded to realities. The customer care service has been burdened with ensuring that the real-time is need achievable and handling the increasing list of requirements from customers. The suppliers, customers and the manufactures, work under a fast time-to market strategy that is enforced by the adoption of MES. This makes sure that there is growth of business on both sides (manufacturer's and customer's). MES will also provide for a maximized productivity, communications, flow between order entry and manufacturing as well as the overall performance of the industry (Muller, et al. 1986). .

Global manufacturing of semiconductors

Semiconductors are everywhere in the current world; from spaceships to appliances. These devices have transformed the world that it has achieved industrial revolutions that it could have achieved in hundreds of years within a span of only a few decades. Semiconductors have enabled and simplified the communication and understanding of humans with machines. Semiconductors have also helped man to trend in formally un-explorable places. The power of computing and signal processing is so overwhelming that it has become virtually difficult that sand can produce such powerful devices. The industrial revolution realized in the world is through the purification of sand and making it flat as well as adding some few materials to it. Semiconductor manufacturing is the magical act of creating integrated circuits from sand. The various steps during semiconductor manufacturing as sated earlier are: production of wafers from silicon ingots, fabrication of ICs from these wafers, assembly of the ICs and wafers into a product and finally the testing and back-end processing of the products. These steps will be discussed in detail below:

Fabrication of wafers

The creation or building of integrated circuits on top of silicon wafers is known as wafer fabrication. Before this stage is commenced, raw silicon wafers are extracted from pure silicon ingots. The methods employed in this first stage may be either the Float Zone (FZ) or Czochralski (CZ). Wafering is a process of slicing the pure silicon ingots into thin shaped wafers. Over the years the semiconductor industry has witnessed many changes that have led to the development of various wafer fabrication processes. With this the designer is in a position to optimize the design by choosing the best fabrication process for the semiconductor manufacturing (Turley, 2002). However, the new wafer fabrication processes involve the deposing of special layers of materials on the wafers each at a time in various distinct patterns.

During the fabrication of a simple CMOS integrated circuit for instance, the first step involves laying a p-type epitaxial on the silicon substrate through a method known as vapor deposition. This is followed by the laying up of a nitride layer over the epi-layer. The layer is then masked and etched to the required shapes this leaving a ‘naked' area on the epi-layer. The exposed or ‘naked' area may be masked again before an ion implantation or diffusion techniques are employed to receive the dopants responsible fro creating the n-wells. The dopants may either be phosphorous or any other element having five electrons in its outer shell. The n-wells are isolated from other parts of the circuits by thermally developing silicon oxide into field oxides. Another masking is usually done to help in the growth of gate oxide layers. The oxide layers are laid over the n-wells and aid in the growth of p-channel MOS transistors afterwards. The isolation between the gate of each of the transistors and the channel is provided by the gate oxide layer. Another implant or diffusion and masking is done so as to adjust the voltages at threshold on the other parts of the epi-layer that are may be used for n-channel transistors afterwards.

An etching or masking process follows the deposition of polysilicon layer over the wafer. Etching is normally done to remove all the unwanted areas with the polysilicon. This enables the defining of polysilicon gates that are over the gate oxide within the p-type transistor. Etching of oxide at the correct locations is also done to open up for the source and the drain drive-ins on the n-wells. An implant or masking cycle of boron dopants into the openings of the n-wells is done to create the p-type sources and drains. Another masking or implant is done to enable the creation of n-type source and drains that form the n-channel transistor within the p-type epi-layer. After al these processes the wafer is then covered with phosphor-silica glass and then subjected an ion etching that is reactive so as to form naked areas that can be used for metallization. Aluminum is used fro metallization and it is sputtered on the surface of the wafer ands then put into reactive ion etching also in distinct patterns that help create the various connections to various elements or components in the circuit (Balandin et al.2006). Finally the wafer is covered with a protective layer of glassivation.

Afterward, etching or masking is done so as to rid the bond pads off glass. This describes the complex procedure of fabrication of wafers. It involves many series of masking, etching and implanting steps that lead to the final product bearing the circuit.

Due to the complexities involved in this process, a system that will hasten the processes will prove very vital in this case. A system that can offer solution to these challenges is the adoption of MES. An MES model will normally supports wide and diverse systems in manufacturing of semiconductors. The MES can support very complex workflow processes, mass customization collection of automated data in high volumes, batch processes, discrete assembly, as well as rolled out products. MES provides for a highly configurable platform that does not require codes so as to be adaptable to the user's business the MES has also an open SOA architecture that is specifically designed so as to simplify the integration of the shop floor automation and the enterprise applications.

MES design for a semiconductor manufacturing industry

The integration of MES or other systems into the semiconductor manufacturing industry is more complex than just the new tools into the manufacturing lines. It involves several issues that must be looked into before it is adopted. Issues related to customers, semiconductor manufacturers, trading partner as well as the suppliers must be heeded to before adoption of the system is made. It is the responsibility of the manufactures to develop new methods of reducing the maintenance costs of the system. The manufacturer should also develop interfaces that are easy to use and transparent. Adoption of the MES has enabled the fabrication, extraction as well as analysis and evaluation of tetra bytesizes data blocks in a timely fashion is easier. This means that there will no longer be problems associated with equipment testers. The adoption of MES also enables the flow of information between the production floor and the corporate in an automated and customized manner. The MES has also eliminated the time-consuming queries.

The data circulation from the management, fabrication personnel, account representatives, research and development, and the customers is far great with MES than the conventional systems. The days of dependence on lot tracking having little or no interaction with decision support and demand are long gone with the adoption of global MSE. MSE is a complex environment that allows for real-time accessibility to manufacturing and business information that may arise with the new target on customer-driven objectives. MES together with ERP systems can be used to integrate the front-end fabrication of wafers and the assembly to be back-end so as to avail information of where, how and when the semiconductors were actually manufactured.

The integration of E-business and MES is rapidly gaining pace in many semiconductor industries and are critical in ensuring the industry's fiscal health. The MES will also enable the selling and creation of innovative services and products to cater for the short term opportunities in the market while still maintaining the cordial relationships between customer and the supplier. The global supply-chain management in today's world is the ‘four walls' methodology. To achieve this Oracle has come up with a package of suites of products that may be adopted by all semiconductor companies that wish to change to the new methods (Borrus, 1990). The suite includes all the systems that will expand and maintain the faster pace between the market and the customer. These systems are: legacy, CIM and the enterprise systems.

The input of design partners in MES

Due to the close working relations that Oracle has with its customers, team working has been effective in building an inclusive solution for the semiconductor manufacturing industries. Some of its customers are Agere Systems (formerly Lucent Microelectronics). This team work has provided notable enhancements for the semiconductor industry for the last four years. One of the major enhancements is the development of the 300mm wafer manufacturing system. Other enhancements are still on-going as per the prioritization and advice received from the customer advisory board.

Development of a shop floor automation MES for a semiconductor industry

Oracle has developed an MES functionality that enables the expansion of the current solutions on enterprise for the semiconductor industry floor space. The developed system is known as Oracle Shop Floor Management (OSFM). This however, is not a stand alone application and must be integrated with others so as to work well. The additional functionalities cater for the particular requirements of the MES marketplace. The other applications for OSFM to perform effectively are: Oracle engineering products, oracle inventory, oracle cost management, oracle quality and oracle work. The new OSFM that integrates MES is a more detailed strategy for the shop floor/WIP. The conventional WIP established by Oracle did not provide the agility and flexibility of tracking the diverse transactions taking place at the shop floor. However the new OSFM solution caters for the added transactions as well as being robust, thus enabling detailed tracking of any transaction. The OSFM has several functional components that are worthy mentioning. These are: lot genealogy, complex lot transactions, dynamic routing, co-product definition and yield-based costing.


It is without no doubt that the integration of global manufacturing execution system (MES) can be used to coordinate the global manufacturing of semiconductors with a lot of success. The cost of shifting to this new system is normally high but in the long run it will be off-set by the profit margins of the company. Through the adoption of this system, the semiconductor industry has also been able to maintain a good customer base as well as attract more others. With the challenges in the world today, no single semiconductor manufacturing company can afford to still use the conventional systems in manufacturing and still reap profits. The integration of MES and E-business is the tendency that all semiconductor companies are assuming at a global level currently.

It has been observed that the adoption of MES will lead to increased revenue, increased inventories as well as increased production rates. These are the vital elements of every semiconductor industry to prosper. This means that the customers' needs and requirements must be satisfied and at the same time achieve the industry objectives. The economic times have changed and the future and success of all semiconductor manufacturing industries will be based on those who are willing and prepared to adopt the new technologies more so the Global Manufacturing Execution System. (MES)


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