Smart Manufacturing Analytics Solutions to Mitigate Impact of COVID-19

Originally posted on SEMI Blog

By Serena Brischetto

The costs of production are typically based on labor and materials and define manufacturing expenses. But is this approach accurate enough? What about the cost of poor quality and lack of efficiency in production? How is the pandemic impacting semiconductor manufacturing and what can we expect from the future?

SEMI recently spoke with Dr. Eyal Kaufman, founder and CEO of QualityLine, a Kiryat Gat, Israel-based provider of smart manufacturing analytics solution, about manufacturing controls and how to select the best data source to improve product quality and yield. Kaufmann provided a snapshot of current best practices used by the company to improve manufacturing efficiencies and product quality while reducing costs. He also discussed the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on semiconductor smart manufacturing and how artificial intelligence (AI) can help keep factory workers safe.

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SEMI: Real manufacturing costs are calculated based on different aspects such as failures in production, repairs, products returned, scrap of components or late deliveries. Lack of quality and efficiency in manufacturing can undermine a business. How are you helping businesses overcome these challenges?

Kaufman: To increase profit margins, it is essential to identify inefficiencies and what improvements to prioritize. Once manufacturing quality and efficiency deficiencies have been measured, the next step is to continuously collect manufacturing data in order to run the final cost analysis and use the analytics to improve the manufacturing process.

Smart manufacturing makes it possible to detect anomalies in automated factories, improve production performance and increase profitability. Today, automated data are collected from every machine and piece of test equipment in the factory. Still, manufacturing data collection in many industries remains manual and expensive because of the time and human resources involved. A real-time analytics system can automatically collect all data sources and select the relevant data for analysis, which today is the most accurate and effective way of measuring and resolving quality and efficiency deficiencies.

Data-driven decisions made by smart manufacturing reduce costs and improve manufacturing strategies, enabling factory operators to increase product quality, drive higher production capacity and enhance product design for manufacturability. Analytics solutions monitor shop floor operations accessing vendors and subcontractors’ products criterion to run root cause analysis. All those data will reduce the return rate of faulty products and accelerate return on investment. This is why we definitely need smart manufacturing technologies!

SEMI: Data accumulated during the manufacturing process includes vital information about failures, anomalies and machine usability. What data are necessary to create the best analytics solution?

Kaufman: Many companies today run data mapping and automatic creation of data capture. They often wonder if they need to use testing data, sensors data or product design data, or whether they should collect feedback from their customers and vendors. The best way to create an effective manufacturing analytics system is to use data sources such as:

  • Feedback from customers (returned units, customers complaints, etc..)
  • Testing data from automated test equipment and manual test activities
  • Feedback from technicians repairing faulty units
  • Analysis of testing processes done by vendors
  • Sensors data
  • Data from our ERP/MES systems

Artificial intelligence enables any type and size of data structure, even accumulated data, to be automatically integrated and interpreted. AI-based analytics can also establish correlations between each manufacturing stage to help factory operators quickly conduct deep diagnostic and root cause analysis for problem solving and prevention – all while leaving intact a factory’s existing process, machinery and data output. Machine learning evaluates how a factory runs its database and puts all the information generated into an analytics solution that provides the know-how to continuously improve factory efficiency.

SEMI: How do you select the best data source to improve manufacturing quality and yield?

Kaufman: The accuracy and integrity of data accumulated in our manufacturing process is key to controlling and improving yield and quality while reducing manufacturing costs. Smart manufacturing is a technology-driven approach that uses digital and remote connected machinery to monitor the production process. The goal is to identify anomalies in manufacturing processes and leverage analytics to improve process yield and product quality.

To select the relevant data, we collect each type and source of data that can improve the efficiency of a real manufacturing cell:

  1. Test data from Automated Testing Equipment
  2. Test data from Manual Testing Processes
  3. Analyses of repairing processes (failed units during the manufacturing process and units that were returned from customers)

Once the data structure is collected, the next step is to turn it into actionable information in the manufacturing process. QualityLine smart manufacturing solutions provide a complete one-stop solution to interpret any manufacturing data structure. Our advanced manufacturing analytics solution detects quality and yield anomalies to reveal production line inefficiencies and opportunities to improve manufacturing quality and efficiency.

SEMI: How would you describe your approach?

Kaufman: Industry 4.0 in manufacturing claims to be the fourth generation of the industrial revolution. Advanced technologies like manufacturing intelligence and machine learning can efficiently achieve zero defects on manufacturing lines. Digital factories leverage technologies and methodologies including:

  • Big data
  • Self-optimization
  • Self-configuration
  • Self-diagnosis
  • Cognitive and machine learning

Smart manufacturing technologies enhance the manufacturing process by continuously collecting and analyzing data in real-time to achieve and maintain high quality performance. The goal is to achieve a significant increase in efficiency and yield while reducing waste and inefficiency.

Until now, there has been no viable way to integrate all saved manufacturing data into a unified database. QualityLine advanced manufacturing analytics make it possible for any factory to become digital without installing new hardware, which can be expensive and require not only the extensive integration of existing data but investments in training.

Our user-friendly solution integrates manufacturing data for industries with zero automation by first collecting and analyzing data from any type of manual test procedure and then integrated it into manufacturing analytics to improve efficiency.

SEMI: Why are Pass/Fail criteria insufficient for controlling manufacturing yield and quality?

Kaufman: Managing a mass manufacturing process is always a challenge because hundreds of tasks must be successfully completed before products can ship to customers. At QualityLine, we establish a test process for each stage of the production flow, from the incoming raw material to the final stage prior to the delivery of finished goods to the client. To prevent unexpected downtime incidents, waste and defective products, we collect and interpret every type of relevant data and turn it into meaningful information, setting up the following capabilities:

  • Collection and interpretation of test and process data of each single unit and from each process and plant
  • Automatic detection of quality and yield problems
  • Accurate and quick root cause analysis process
  • Automatic alerts to abnormal issues
  • Prediction process potential and level of failures
  • Measurement of key performance indicators

Many manufacturers base their test criteria of each parameter on one key indicator – Pass or Fail. If the test result shows a Pass, then the unit is ready to move on to the next manufacturing stage. If the test result shows Fail, then the unit is sent to a technician for further analysis.

A simple Pass or Fail criteria for product quality is far from sufficient since it provides little or no information about edge cases, where one or more of the technical parameters of the unit under test is only within its allowed tolerance. Edge cases may lead to unit failure during operation such as in extreme environments (cold, heat, humidity, electrical overload, impact, etc.). In fact, when running a mass manufacturing line, it is impossible to continuously digest all the detailed information collected from testing stations. Data is analyzed in detail only when a critical quality problem emerges and further analysis is required to understand the root cause.

Information overload and the disregard of important parameters makes it hard to control the process and improve quality and yield. New technologies make fast and scalable data integration possible so data can be collected in real time to detect quality issues early, identify complex process disruptions to avoid delivery delays and ensure the best possible product for customers. Only by accurately analyzing data as actionable information can factory operators control the manufacturing quality process.

SEMI: How has COVID-19 impacted the smart manufacturing market? How has your technology helped factories remain online?

Kaufman: Smart manufacturing is playing a significant role by helping manufacturers overcome COVID-19 challenges such as workforce reductions, social distancing, drops in sales for some specific products and extreme pressure to cut operational costs.

Manufacturing leaders turned to us for a solution to the challenges of maintaining efficient factory operations with a limited workforce and reduced number of operating hours. Filling factory orders with fewer people on the floor is a struggle. Digital factory technologies enable remote monitoring of operations to increase efficiency and capacity. We are helping our clients improve efficiency while reducing costs.

Our remote monitoring technology can provide the operational visibility to floor managers and engineering teams who cannot go physically to the factories due to safety restrictions. With our advanced manufacturing analytics, they have full end-to-end visibility and can remotely diagnose and solve production line issues.

During this critical time, we are proud to be improving remote monitoring solutions to help the industry withstand the pandemic. Some of our clients would have closed their factories otherwise. We’ve been working to integrate manufacturing data in factories that were previously unautomated to drive high automation levels. Integrating processes with existing factory data, regardless of customer’s protocols or automation level, is our great technology advantage.

SEMI: How will manufacturing and its supply chains look after COVID-19?

Kaufman: Smart manufacturing is currently a necessity. We collect and analyze data not only to improve quality but to reduce client returns of faulty products by 50% and reduce waste by 22%, both critical points. Manufacturing challenges will continue to accelerate advancements in technology and improve efficiency, safety and productivity as more factory operators incorporate real-time data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI).

SEMI: Will suppliers continue to explore new avenues for smart manufacturing technologies and what are their growth opportunities?

Kaufman: Yes, definitely. The sector has already changed, with COVID-19 bringing both opportunities and challenges. Industry leaders are facing new pressure, with sudden materials shortages, drops in demand and worker unavailability. The growth opportunities for manufacturing are likely to be digital, as already evident in the immediate response to the crisis. Industry 4.0 solutions will be crucial to increase end-to-end supply-chain transparency, automation and data integration. QualityLine manufacturing analytics have improved key manufacturing performance metrics. For example, based on customer feedback, we’ve increased production yield by 30%, saving some of our customers millions of dollars. Improvements like this can help suppliers withstand pandemics.

Dr. Eyal Kaufman, Founder and CEO at QualityLine, has senior management experience and over 25 years of expertise in business development, marketing, finance, operations, engineering and quality management at leading industrial companies. Prior to QualityLine, he served as VP of Mobileye, Cardo Systems, and Medisim Ltd., as well as CEO of OnTheGo Systems. Eyal holds a Ph.D. from California Intercontinental University, an MBA from City University of New York and a BSc. from the Technion in Israel.

The SEMI SMART Manufacturing Initiative is a global effort to promote awareness and interest about smart manufacturing with focus on delivering industry-recognized best-in-class programs and services to enable members to maximize product quality, productivity and cost improvements through smart manufacturing. Activities are focused on building out core capabilities to enable smart manufacturing across the microelectronics supply chain.

MADEin4 is a consortium of 47 partners from 10 countries connecting the full range of supply chain: from semiconductor equipment manufacturers and system-integrating metrology companies to RTOS and key applications such as the automotive industry. The MADEin4 Project develops next generation metrology tools, machine learning methods and applications in support of Industry 4.0 high volume manufacturing in the semiconductor manufacturing industry.

Serena Brischetto is a senior manager of marketing and communications at SEMI Europe.