While the achievement of higher productivity in manufacturing is crucial for an organization’s progress, the journey can be fraught with challenges. In organizing its inaugural Automation Supplier Day, the Singapore Semiconductor Industry Association (SSIA) hoped to enable industry suppliers and manufacturers to learn more about these challenges and problem-solving processes from companies that have made significant leaps in their productivity journey.
As a leader in memory solutions, Micron Semiconductor Asia was invited to share our best practices in manufacturing processes that have contributed to our achievement of productivity goals. I was the privileged to have represented Micron among the six-member panel moderated by SSIA President CK Tan.
The necessity of automation for an organization’s survival was a common thread in the discussion and the topics covered included using big data technology and change management within an organization. On the topic of best practices, I shared six key points:
Fernando Tjia, center, Micron’s Automation Director, shares his thoughts on best practices in automation at SSIA’s Automation Supplier Day.
1. Set up the vision
While targeting low-hanging fruits during the automation journey gives quick returns, it is important to bear in mind the overall vision and end goal in order for automation efforts across different processes to sync with one another.
The process of automating a factory are typically carried out in phases. For example, phase 1 could comprise automating equipment to carry out repetitive and manual tasks while phase 2 could focus on systemizing data to standardize systems such as tool communication protocols. Finally, the organization could link various tools in the upstream and downstream processes to create end-to-end integration for the third phase.
2. Simplify the process
Many manufacturing operations are unnecessarily complex. This gives rise to challenges in creating an automated system. Given the long timeline required for automating a facility, it is crucial that methods to simplify the processes are thoroughly considered early on in the journey. In line with the end goal, tools like the Value Stream Map, and Design for Manufacture (DFM) and Design for Automation (DFA) techniques may be utilized to eliminate redundant steps and improve workflow.
Repetitive inspection tasks carried out by employees can be replaced by simpler sensors once automation is implemented, or new materials can be used in certain operations to simplify processes.
Standardization starts with data. After developing a simplified process, data collection from activities such as equipment state monitoring, recipe naming and communication protocols will be required to help determine the areas for standardization.
In back-end manufacturing, the use of different carriers on the production floor has resulted in added process complexities that make automation more challenging. Standardizing carriers such as magazines, trays and cassettes, is therefore crucial for automation.
The data collected for standardization will also allow for the systemization of manufacturing execution system (MES) communication, dispatch and scheduling, automated trigger and process monitoring. At this point, investment in information technology resource would also be necessary in order for data communication and information traffic to be set in place.
5. Select the right partners
Choosing the right partners, be it in information technology, software or equipment supply, is critical for an organization as it strives to achieve its target returns on investment and cost structure. On the other hand, working with the wrong partners could cost the organization in terms of performance and productivity.
6. Start your real journey
The automation journey is challenging, but it is a fulfilling and crucial one in manufacturing productivity.