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Global Repair Factory Operations Expand to Improve Delivery of Customer Support Services

By David Lammers

As tool availability and uptime become ever more important to device manufacturers’ profitability, Applied Materials is building a wider network of local repair capabilities. The company’s Global Repair Factory Operations (GRFO) group is establishing best in class parts repair closer to customer locations and improving the value of services delivered under Applied’s customer service agreements.

Left: Austin Repair Center, Top Right: Taiwan Repair Center, Bottom Right: China Repair Center

Applied has been steadily expanding its number of repair centers beyond its original repair operation in Austin, Texas, which is now in its 32nd year. "Our goal is to provide quick, competitive and flexible regional solutions for customers and to have repaired parts available exactly where and when needed," said Frank Hooshdaran, head of GRFO. "To accomplish that, we are working to be present in different regions," he said, emphasizing that multiple GRFO locations are either already in existence or being planned in China, Taiwan, Korea, and beyond.

Hooshdaran’s organization is part of the Operations and Component Engineering group within Applied Global Services (AGS), which includes an integrated demand planning function, focused on optimizing the availability of repaired parts in inventory in the appropriate regions.

Hooshdaran noted that as device nodes get smaller and process windows narrower, the parts require increasing customization and tuning. "Many of the parts contain intellectual property owned by Applied, or have special customization features unique to a customer. This means the ways in which repairs and tuning are handled are becoming increasingly significant to both parties," he said.

"When repair is performed as part of an AGS service agreement, these unique entitlements are protected,” he said, adding that “with the globalization of the industry, Applied is able to share best known methods across geographically-dispersed centers and deliver consistent, best in class repair for all service products."

One such service, Applied’s HeadSmart CMP refurbishment offering, has been optimized with QuickStart, an add-on service that brings CMP retaining rings into production-ready condition. "Several customers have saved considerable tool up-time and consumables cost by utilizing QuickStart," Hooshdaran said.

After repair, QuickStart puts the refurbished part into a tool-emulating test fixture and optimizes the shape, radius, and surface to get the part into production-worthy condition. "The customer then can take advantage of the benefit of having a custom tuned part for their specific process needs, saving considerable tool uptime and consumable costs" he said.

AGS offers a variety of repair products ranging from Like-New Refurbishment (under the "broken to warranty" or B-to-W program) to Repair-to-Customer-Specifications. As an equipment OEM, Applied can offer refurbishment and repair that takes advantage of knowledge gained during the design of the machine, repairing parts back to the original intended functionality, or upgrading them to new functionality as appropriate.

GRFO also enables greater effectiveness in fulfillment of AGS service agreements. "Local repairs allow us to keep our customers’ tools running as efficiently and effectively as possible, per the contractual up-time specifications under our service agreements," he said. "Regional service centers can provide local support for scheduled maintenance, and provide a fast turn-around time, which can help customers’ productivity and profitability," Hooshdaran said.

Hooshdaran added that having a service agreement relationship with the customers "affords us the opportunity to work closely with them, build trust and provide timely solutions. Our goal is to ensure that repair quality meets customers’ expectations through a rigorous testing and qualification process on the repaired parts. These qualifications are often customer-by-customer and one part at a time."

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