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A Holistic Approach to Yield Improvement in the Semiconductor Manufacturing Industry

Semiconductor manufacturing is one of the most complex and competitive industries, heavily driven by innovation and cost-efficiency. It is continuously grappling with increasing cost pressures while concurrently working to meet the demands of rapidly advancing technology. Yield optimization, a multifaceted process aimed at improving the number of usable chips produced from raw materials, is an integral part of reducing manufacturing costs. This process involves taking into account several elements, such as equipment performance, operator capability, and the complexity of the design.

Achieving higher yield and profitability has become critical in the semiconductor industry, mandating a shift in perspectives. With the industry’s rapid evolution, the key to sustainable yield improvement in manufacturing lies in the incorporation of advancements in analytics and a comprehensive yield improvement approach.

The Importance of Data-driven Insights and Systemic Improvements

As the industry continues to adhere to Moore’s law, bringing about miniaturization and sophistication of devices, the risk of yield loss due to process variability and contamination increases. Consequently, enhancing the design and machine capabilities becomes of utmost importance, necessitating a novel approach to yield improvement that centralizes on data-driven insights and systemic improvements.

Historically, yield improvement efforts have focused on excursions, percentages, or products. However, for a significant impact on profitability, it’s essential to translate yield loss into its actual monetary value, thereby providing a comprehensive, end-to-end view of the entire manufacturing process. By understanding the cost implications of each yield loss, semiconductor companies can create focused strategies that address the most impactful areas, ultimately improving their bottom line.

Aligning Engineering and Finance Perspectives

For successful implementation, this approach requires companies to harmonize the language and data used by the engineering and finance departments. It is pivotal to develop a comprehensive understanding of the end-to-end yield, facilitating more effective collaboration and decision-making across the two functions.

A useful tool to aid this alignment is the loss matrix, which can help identify the significant sources of loss. The loss matrix provides a clear, data-driven picture of where yield losses are happening and their relative impact on the overall production process. With this knowledge, companies can formulate more targeted initiatives to boost yield and profitability.

To align the perspectives of engineering and finance on yield and cost, companies need to establish a cost-of-non-quality (CONQ) baseline. This baseline merges cost data from finance with defect data from engineering. The CONQ baseline enables teams to understand how defects directly impact the cost, thereby encouraging joint decision-making to improve yield and profitability.

Embracing a Holistic View of Manufacturing

Moreover, the industry should adopt a holistic view of the manufacturing process rather than focusing on individual processes, products, or equipment. Only when the process is viewed as a complete system, can the interdependencies between different parts of the process be fully understood and addressed.

The identification of significant loss areas using the loss matrix enables companies to develop insights into key themes that drive these losses. This data-driven approach supports proactive problem-solving and more efficient collaborations with cross-functional teams. In turn, this shifts the paradigm from a reactive to a proactive approach, empowering yield engineers to address potential problems before they impact the yield and yield enhancement systems.

Enhanced Fabrication Technology and Automation

Fabrication technology plays a pivotal role in semiconductor manufacturing. It is one of the key elements that contribute to yield. Companies have to innovate continuously to improve the production of semiconductors and increase yield. An example of such innovation is photolithography, which allows transistors to be printed on a silicon wafer with nanometer precision. By increasing the precision and quality of photolithography, companies can improve the yield significantly.

Automation in manufacturing is another important factor in improving yield. The introduction of advanced robotics and AI has reduced human contact and, therefore, the likelihood of contamination, a common issue that can lower the yield. By integrating automation, semiconductor manufacturers can achieve greater accuracy and consistency, thus enhancing yield and overall efficiency.

Utilizing Advanced Analytics in Yield Improvement

The massive amount of data generated in semiconductor manufacturing can be a gold mine for semiconductor yield improvement. Advanced analytics, coupled with machine learning and AI, can help to identify patterns and trends that may not be apparent to human analysts. This approach allows companies to predict defects before they occur, enhancing the overall yield and reducing costs.

Predictive analytics can be particularly useful in identifying the root causes of defects, thereby preventing their recurrence. It can also be employed to monitor and control process parameters in real time, helping to prevent deviations that could negatively affect yield. Thus, the application of advanced analytics can drive proactive, rather than reactive, actions, leading to sustainable yield improvement.

Streamlining Cross-Functional Collaboration

In many semiconductor companies, different teams and functions work in isolation, leading to fragmented efforts that are less efficient in improving yield. Cross-functional collaboration, where different teams work together towards a common goal, can drive significant improvements in yield. For example, engineering, manufacturing, and quality teams can work together to identify potential issues, devise solutions, and implement changes more rapidly and effectively.

A well-coordinated, cross-functional collaboration can not only drive yield improvement but also enhance problem-solving capabilities, improve knowledge sharing, and drive innovation. Such collaboration requires transparent and effective communication channels, coupled with a shared understanding of the objectives and how each team contributes to achieving them.

Implementing a Cost-of-Nonquality (CONQ) Baseline

The implementation of a cost-of-non-quality (CONQ) baseline is a powerful strategy to bridge the perspectives of finance and engineering. By merging cost data from finance and defect data from engineering, teams can create a CONQ baseline that helps understand how defects directly impact the cost. This approach provides an objective measure of the economic impact of quality issues, thereby focusing improvement efforts where they can bring the most significant financial return.

Having a CONQ baseline also allows for better decision-making and prioritization of quality improvement initiatives. With an understanding of the financial implications, organizations can direct their resources to areas that will yield the highest return on investment, thus enhancing profitability.

Conclusion

An end-to-end approach to yield improvement in the semiconductor industry that incorporates advanced analytics aligns engineering and finance functions and adopts a holistic view of the manufacturing process has the potential to address the industry’s current challenges significantly. By implementing this approach, semiconductor manufacturers can ensure continuous innovation in their fabrication technology, reduce common problems such as particle contamination, and achieve sustainable yield improvement.

References

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  6. Jannesari, M., Shamsipur, M., & Zare, H. R. (2016). “Automation in semiconductor manufacturing: a review on advanced defect detection and classification techniques”. Microelectronics Reliability, 65, 174-189.
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Kavin
Kavin
Uneeb Khan CEO at blogili.com. Have 4 years of experience in the websites field. Uneeb Khan is the premier and most trustworthy informer for technology, telecom, business, auto news, games review in World.

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