by James Montgomery, news editor
May 17, 2011 - Harvey Frye, vice-chairman of TEL America, summarized the new supplier landscape, showing the evolution of equipment stretching 50 years, with interdependent trends for both equipment developers and customers. Tools in the 1960s were mostly proprietary and manual with basic functionality; by the '70s tools came in a wider variety, with some auto-handling and basic process controls. OEMs asserted dominance in the 1980s, emphasizing higher reliability and a unit process focus to a more global customer base. The 1990s saw "explosive tool diversification" with diverse materials, integrated processing and controls, and overall equipment effectiveness to improve efficiency. That diversity expanded to the "extreme" entering the 21st century as the industry crossed into the nano-process horizon and into diverse market applications, and began to explore and embrace consortia efforts to meet cost/complexity needs.
From a macro point of view, Frye categorized a list of decreasing trends (feature size, # of customers, device lifetimes, shorter time-to-ramp and time-to-market, and margin pressures) in contrast to those trends on the rise: device complexity, diversity of materials, IDMs/OEMs moving up the value chain, costs for leading-edge development and per-gate, and diversity of IC choices.
Since the '80s and into today and the future, supplier collaboration has become increasingly complex -- a denser mix of factory management & process control, process integration & unit process engineering, factory automation, contamination control, and product engineering. Chipmakers and tool suppliers concurrently have to navigate the integration of device designs and processes, production process, and chamber/platform designs.
For TEL, a collaborative approach means convergent business needs/strategies, with each partner contributing unique technology, know-how, and experience, Frye explained. He emphasized complete and constant communications of needs and expectations as the project evolves -- and the need to develop a "trust relationship" within which ideas can be freely exchanged, to allow for a "one-team" environment.
There are three pathways within an equipment supplier's universe, Frye showed: primary ownership, involvement/connection, and awareness/influence. Primary owners are deeply involved in future tool development (concept and alpha), through development of prototype pilot tools, beta qualification, and unit processes, and ramping with production tools, tool quality, productivity, and COO. Being involved means participation as a consortia partner, stepping back for a slightly broader view of functionality (DFM, materials, processes, tool linkage), integrating processes and process control modeling, and system extendibility. Above that level are those focused on end-market needs, IC design/simulations/modeling, test methodologies, time-to-market, and ultimately fanning out with copy-exact (or copy-close) practices. For "second-life" equipment there's a strata too: primary owners focus on refurbishment and upgrades, those involved/connected look to optimize the supply chain, relocation/resale, and new processes, and those stepped back to an "influence" position emphasize new applications and third-party support options.
Many of these factors are logic-centric, Frye noted, from higher mask sets to stringent standards to test strategies, 3D packaging, and demanding customization.
The future landscape for suppliers will be very much a customer-process-centered world, Frye advised. That means adapting to a faster cadence for consumer markets, expanding synchronized complexity with partners through lifecycles, and measuring success by avoiding harm to customer objectives, all under an increasing influence of the logic sector. Some things will never change, though, he said -- well-developed relationships are fundamental, and smart innovation "can always lead or save the day."
Customers, logic reshaping supplier collaboration landscape
by James Montgomery, news editor