Listen in as Advantest’s smart manufacturing experts describe how semiconductor testing is getting an IQ boost from some of the recent smart manufacturing innovations in high volume production test. Learn how the fully-integrated work flow is enabling cloud and edge analytics across the entire semiconductor test value chain.
KEITH SCHAUB: I'm Keith Schaub, Vice President of Strategy and Technology at Advantest and you're listening to Advantest Talks Semi. The growth of digitalization coupled with increasing technological advancements in areas such as, AI and machine learning, are accelerating the innovation and evolution of smart manufacturing. This is especially true for high volume manufacturing of semiconductors, where test hardware, software, and test methodologies must continuously stay at the forefront of technology. How can we apply the best semiconductor testing possible to the latest semiconductor devices across a highly complex supply chain, where the time to market and product life cycles continually get shorter and shorter? Smart manufacturing is one of the key technological innovations enabling our industry to do just that and is quickly becoming a requirement to remain competitive in an industry where customer demands of improved quality, faster time to yield, and lower cost is the norm. You can listen to my interview with two of Advantest’s smart manufacturing experts but first we go to Hira Hassan, our Global Marketing Communications Specialist for some important Advantest news. Hello Hira!
HIRA HASSAN: Hi Keith and Happy New Year! I'm happy to say we had quite a successful year in 2021. Business was brisk and towards the end of the year, we were able to once again engage in in-person conferences. Both SEMICON West and SEMICON Japan had great turnouts, and it was wonderful to reconnect with our customers and colleagues. We will have Junko discuss the results and fun facts from both conferences in our next podcast episode. On the horizon, we are looking forward to participating in SEMICON Korea in Soul, Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and to hosting VOICE in person this year in Scottsdale, Arizona from May 17 to 18. We're all very excited to be able to see everyone face to face again. And as always, be sure to connect with Advantest on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for all the news and much more. Keith, that's the latest back to you.
KEITH SCHAUB: Thanks Hira. So, what is smart manufacturing and how is Advantest and the semiconductor test industry utilizing this new innovation? I'm joined by Nicolas Cathelin, Business Development Manager for Advantest Europe, and Guenther Jeserer, Senior Director of Advantest Test Cell Automation, to help us understand the important role of smart manufacturing in the semiconductor test industry. Nicolas, Guenther, welcome to Advantest Talk Semi.
GUENTHER JESERER: Thanks Keith, happy to be here.
NICOLAS CATHELIN: Thank you, Keith.
KEITH SCHAUB: So, let's start with smart manufacturing, what is it? And why is it important?
NICOLAS CATHELIN: So smart manufacturing is defined as a fully integrated collaborative manufacturing systems that respond in real time to meet changing demands and conditions in the factory, supply network, and customer needs. There are already various levels of implementations of smart manufacturing in different industries, and all of these have the same objective to increase competitiveness. And with smart manufacturing, we aim to achieve higher efficiency of production assets, improved quality at a lower cost. So, Advantest provides complete test cell solutions comprising hardware, software, and data analytics tools, and these are critical building blocks of our customers smart manufacturing. Our solutions are key for automated decision-making process and executing those decisions.
KEITH SCHAUB: I see. Thanks Nicolas, and how is smart manufacturing different from a smart factory? We've heard the term “lights out,” which has been around for 10 plus years and as the name suggests, the factory is completely automated and doesn't require a lot of humans or at least not that many to operate. So, help us understand how is smart manufacturing different from that?
NICOLAS CATHELIN: Yes, sure. So smart manufacturing is really the next evolutionary step in the process. Smart factories with high degrees of automation have been around for over a decade. Smart factories, however, don't necessarily have or need digitization. I'm oversimplifying but, “smart factories” as a term is more synonymous of a factory with robotics placing humans to support automation. Smart manufacturing, in contrast, is really about digitization of the factory, and what we do together with our customers is leveraging the huge amount of data that semiconductor manufacturing equipment collects and generates to improve the quality of the products and also the efficiency of the equipment itself. With these technological innovations we have automated data exchange, real time data analysis and decision making. So, for instance, you can dynamically adapt your test program. Also, the equipment can do predictive maintenance, and all these various innovations contribute to reducing the cost of ownership, reducing cost of tests, and they also of course increased the operating equipment efficiency.
KEITH SCHAUB: Nicolas, thank you. That all sounds fantastic. So, Guenther, if we could switch over to you, help us with understanding how this integrates into our complex semiconductor HVM, or high-volume manufacturing test environment, where we have multiple suppliers and vendors, and they all need to integrate into this harmonious test cell. So, what is the test cell and how is Advantest applying smart manufacturing to the integrated test cell?
GUENTHER JESERER: Yes. As you said, our entire ecosystem is really complex. But let me start with the test cell itself first. So, if you look at the test cell in the final test high volume manufacturing, it's not just the tester and the handler, there are a lot of other components which are required to make this a complete test, so just to name a few, the contact socket, the load board, the docking, and all these components together only then build the complete test cell, and all these components need to work perfectly together. Therefore, Advantest leverages or harmonizes the design to create the test cell solution, which provides the best performance based on the customer needs.
KEITH SCHAUB: Thanks Guenther. And so, with this automated test cell, what are the objectives and the benefits of it?
GUENTHER JESERER: Yeah, the objective is to provide complete solutions. It's not to provide just the various test cell components. It's a one stop approach but it includes the consulting service, and we also support our open architecture to allow third party integration as well, and talking about the benefits for our customers, this leads to a faster time to market, a better OEE (Operational Equipment Efficiency), a lower cost of test, higher test quality. And not to forget, it also reduces the effort to orchestrate the multiple vendors for our customers and also internally they reduce program management to integrate the test cell components.
KEITH SCHAUB: Okay, thank you. So, Guenther, you gave us a good overview of automated test cells and the industry has had that for quite some time. So how is it changing and why? Can you help us with that?
GUENTHER JESERER: Yes, sure. Good question, Keith. All the test cell components I mentioned before, so not just the tester and handler, but also the other components all provide valuable information. So, there is information throughout the whole test cell which needs to be collected, and this information can be used across the test cell to optimize the performance within a test cell on one hand. On the other hand, all this information can be stored at the test floor level or at the cloud level for further processing, just mentioning predictive maintenance here as an example.
KEITH SCHAUB: So, what I am hearing is, what we are seeing in the industry is in addition to the tester and the handler which, of course, generate test data. Now we have all these peripherals and sockets and other components which also generate information and data. And what we are doing is, we are aggregating all of that together sort of in this vertical stack. I guess we could call it, “vertical data feeds,” and then using that to optimize that test cell. But then you go one step further and you say, well we can also use that data, feed it forward, or feed it backward to improve efficiencies or operations and other test insertions, is that correct?
GUENTHER JESERER: Yes, perfectly.
KEITH SCHAUB: Okay, great. And can you help us with, how does Advantest then do this with customers? Can you share some of your experiences?
GUENTHER JESERER: First of all, we need to understand the specific needs or challenges from our customers. This is our first step. Just to name a few, it's test time, or temperature accuracy, or other challenges customer has. And on our side, we have a quite large portfolio of test cell solutions, components, software solutions where we build out of those components, the best fitting solution for our customer to fulfill the needs. What I mentioned earlier, if required, we can also integrate third party components here as well. So bottom line is, first, understand the needs. Second, is suggest a comprehensive integrated solution. Third, is to help to integrate this solution, and fourth is after installation, we're still providing the support along the lifetime of the test cell to optimize the functionalities and in other words it's a kind of consulting over the full life cycle of a tester.
KEITH SCHAUB: I see. Yes, and it seems that it is extremely complex. Thanks, Guenther, for helping us understand that. Nicolas, coming back to you, what do you see with how this is evolving over the coming months and years, if you could give us a look into your crystal ball.
NICOLAS CATHELIN: So, the trend for smart manufacturing has been here for since a while, right? But in the last 2-3 years, it has accelerated dramatically. We've seen some very ambitious plans from our customers. With the pandemic as well, we see this increased need for flexibility, and this is what smart manufacturing is also providing. So, there's no reason why one wouldn't want to take advantage of this very powerful tool. We have seen a number of prototypes and pilot projects running, it's super exciting and I believe that in the next 2-3 years we will see some full implementations at final test level of smart manufacturing automated operations. So, the future is, it is quite bright, I have to say.
KEITH SCHAUB: Okay, Guenther, Nicolas, you've painted an exciting picture and lots to look forward to over the coming months and years. Today, that's about all we have time for. I want to thank both of you for your invaluable insights and for coming on to the show, and educating us on the future of smart manufacturing as we traverse this new industry 4.0.
NICOLAS CATHELIN: Thank you very much. It was a pleasure to be here.
GUENTHER JESERER: Thanks Keith.
KEITH SCHAUB: Thanks again guys. Well, that does it for this episode of Advantest Talks Semi. See you next time.