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Achieve Higher Productivity Faster

Applied SmartFactory® productivity solutions speed deployment of factory automation in chip and packaging operations.

By Madhav Kidambi

Today’s fast-moving semiconductor industry does not give manufacturers the luxury of time. So while it’s certainly critical to increase factory productivity, it’s equally important to do so quickly.

Applied SmartFactory productivity solutions provide ways to accomplish both tasks by introducing efficiencies into the manufacturing process and significantly reducing manual efforts. They enable manufacturers of advanced logic and memory products to capture high margins, and help manufacturers meet strong demand for automotive, medical, communications and other chips. They also increasingly benefit assembly, test and packaging (ATP) companies, which are beginning to resemble modern fabs as they move toward wafer-level packaging technology.

Many of today’s leading 300mm semiconductor factories are already achieving higher productivity by using the Applied SmartFactory product suite, which includes Real-Time Dispatching (RTD), Activity Manager and AutoSched modules. Although manual systems are still widespread in the 200mm and ATP segments, there is now a move to boost productivity by using these modules to increase factory efficiency and lower costs. This is often a tougher challenge because companies in these segments must optimize not just existing factories, but also brand-new fabs, or factories they acquired in different geographies.

ATP companies need to integrate and harmonize the burgeoning amount of data coming from diverse computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) applications. Data may reside in different CIM components with different integration methods and data structures. It may be incomplete or unavailable, or it may be maintained manually on a spreadsheet. This data quagmire hinders the rapid deployment of automation strategies, making it difficult to quickly boost productivity. Typical deployment cycles are already close to a year for some projects, and whole CIM projects can be longer. Growing data integration, validation, analytics and modeling challenges threaten to extend deployment times even further (see figure 1).

Figure 1. The time required to manage data from various CIM systems is a major challenge when deploying automated productivity strategies. Lack of a standard CIM data model can significantly delay productivity improvements.

Table 1. Attributes of an effective automated productivity solution.

Table 1 shows the desired attributes of an effective automated productivity solution.


Having a common CIM data model makes it easier to integrate and share data from different CIM applications. A new offering in the Applied Materials SmartFactory suite of integrated factory automation solutions addresses this requirement by providing dispatching, reporting, integrated simulation and FullAuto capabilities that harmonize, streamline and speed up deployment for various manufacturing scenarios.

SmartFactory offerings include out-of-box dispatching rules, automation workflows, simulation models and reports. These out-ofbox software artifacts are referred to as EngineeredWorks™. They are built on Applied’s proven APF technology, providing a common, integrated framework that covers a wide range of functions, from sales and operational planning to dispatching. Using EngineeredWorks, customers can cut deployment times by more than 50% as compared to custom deployments.

Applied’s productivity offerings have been successfully deployed around the world at more than 280 customer sites, in both front-end-of-the-line (FEOL) and back-end/ATP applications. Applied has incorporated the best-known implementation methods from these installations. Customers have reported productivity gains in the range of 5–15%.

Figure 2. SmartFactory solutions with EngineeredWorks offer customers integrated data extraction, updating, transformation and validation, using a common data model and new manufacturing-specific data templates for dispatching, reporting, modeling/simulation and automation.

Major components of the SmartFactory solution, illustrated in figure 2, include the following:

  • Data Extract/Update. Productivity data can reside in multiple databases. For example, lot and equipment state information might reside in a manufacturing execution system (MES), while lot transport information may reside in a material control system database. APF adapter technology replicates the data in the APF repository in real time and leverages this repository as the database—versus using a third-party database—resulting in faster, more cost-effective data integration with no need for custom code.
  • Transform/Validate. Data in the APF repository is mapped to the common data model using RTD/Reporter technology, and then validated. Users are notified of any errors through Activity Manager.
  • Common Data Model. The model contains definitions for all productivity solutions and enables the separation of logic functions from data preparation. It can greatly accelerate deployments because generating/validating data is normally time-consuming and because data requirements for various productivity applications often overlap.
  • EngineeredWorks. These out-of-box software artifacts for dispatching, reporting, modeling/simulation and other functions incorporate Applied’s APF technology. All logic is visible to end-users, and it is an open-box solution that can be extended rapidly to incorporate changing needs and scenarios.

Examples of EngineeredWorks dispatching solutions include:

  • Global Rule. This helps users meet customer due dates and achieve better work-in-process (WIP) distributions. Important functions include computations for the critical ratio; bottleneck-feed calculations using upstream and downstream WIP conditions; and computation of dynamic Move targets.
  • Local Rules. Dispatching rules that enable better throughput in local areas while conforming to global rule objectives. They include modeling all area-specific manufacturing scenarios and constraints (e.g., the reticle state); qualifications for dispatching lots in the photolithography area; species and source-life information in the implant area; handler configurations for testers, etc. Other common scenarios included are lot queue-time restrictions and batch-size restrictions. These local rules apply to the lithography, diffusion, implant, metrology, CVD (multi-chamber tools), wet bench, tester and wire bonder process steps.

EngineeredWorks also provides an automated capability to generate simulations and models of factory activity. Activity Manager runs a series of reports to prepare the required input data and can create a variety of model scenarios based on how the simulation is applied. Examples are shown in figure 3.

Figure 3. SmartFactory solutions with EngineeredWorks can automatically generate simulations and models of factory activity. This figure shows examples of some possible modeling scenarios.

Also provided are out-of-the-box reports to validate and correct input data for use in simulations and to compare the simulation model’s output with actual production results. Reports are also provided for bottleneck and forecasting analysis.

The SmartFactory Reporting capability encompasses factory and equipment status, factory monitoring and cycle-time analysis.

  • Factory status reports show the current factory status in real time. They include WIP status (lot lists, hot lots, lots on hold, by lot state, etc.); scrap reports; WIP distribution (by equipment type, part, stage, state); and yield reports.
  • Equipment status reports include Gantt charts and qualification, status, availability, utilization and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) reports.
  • Factory monitoring reports track factory progress towards production targets and include reports on bottleneck-tool performance, target moves, and weekly/daily goals.
  • Cycle time reports help identify the potential for cycle-time improvements (cycle-time analysis, lot Gantt charts, and time loop and train size reports).


FullAuto enables automated lot/ step execution on the factory floor with no human interaction. Based on Applied’s SmartFactory Activity Manager, the system “listens” to equipment and lot events in real time and enables lot selection and transportation to destination tools accordingly.

The system can interact with various material-handling systems such as automatic guided vehicles (AGVs), robots and other advanced material-handling systems. Figure 4 shows an example of a FullAuto architecture.

Figure 4. The FullAuto solution enables automated lot/step execution on the factory floor without requiring human interaction. This schematic shows how the system can be configured to interact with advanced material-handling systems.

Key FullAuto capabilities include:

  • What Next? Tool-centric, for either single-wafer/single-lot-processing tools or batch-processing tools.
  • Where Next? Lot-centric, for lot transfer between multiple sites in the same physical location.
  • Exception handling/logging. For automatic rerouting of lots based on alarms from various equipment and material-handling systems.


As both semiconductor fabs and ATP facilities move toward emerging technologies such as wafer-level packaging, 3D architectures and smaller technology nodes, their manufacturing systems must correspondingly evolve from being manual and reactive to becoming more automated and predictive-based.

SmartFactory solutions with EngineeredWorks help customers meet these challenging productivity goals better and faster, enabling them to transition their operations from manual systems to automated control based on proven technologies.

Going forward, Applied Materials will continue to enhance the out-of-the-box capability of its productivity solutions for the key functions of dispatching, scheduling, reporting and simulation. Applied’s APF technology is at the core of this effort as we examine ways to incorporate data mining and machine-learning techniques into future fab productivity solutions.

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To learn about the Applied SmartFactory suite of manufacturing products and solutions supporting next-generation manufacturing, visit our website, blogs and videos at:

[1] Madhav Kidambi, “Common CIM Data Models Can Accelerate a Fab’s Time- To-Productivity,” Applied Materials Nanochip Express, April 2017.