Seagate improves yields and control with automation software

Seagate Technology LLC (Scotts Valley, CA) delivers a wide range of products, including storage area network solutions, server appliances and disk drives for enterprise applications, personal computers, and consumer electronics. Because of this variety, Seagate is always searching for new ways to improve its operations.


Seagate Technology LLC (Scotts Valley, CA) delivers a wide range of products, including storage area network solutions, server appliances and disk drives for enterprise applications, personal computers, and consumer electronics. Because of this variety, Seagate is always searching for new ways to improve its operations.

Daro Diddell, Seagate's executive director of wafer, and recording heads, recently decided to implement some tighter controls within the firm's manufacturing process. "As smoothly as our manufacturing process was running, my job is to constantly look for new ways to improve it. So I felt it was crucial to improve control and consistency by implementing an integrated manufacturing execution system (MES) at Seagate's facilities in Normandale, Northern Ireland and Malaysia," says Mr. Diddell.

Brooks-PRI Automation's Factoryworks systems architecture enables a flexible, distributed manufacturing execution system framework at Seagate's two manufacturing facilities.

The Normandale wafer facility, which manufactures recording heads used in the company's disk drives, needed a replacement for its largely manual process controls. To increase efficiency and productivity using automation, Mr. Diddle reports that Seagate had to control its manufacturing operation's logistics (material flow and equipment status) and its data flow to and from all manufacturing processes.

Step-by-step improvements

Wafer production typically involves about 500 process steps performed over one month. The process demands tight control, real-time visibility, and process feedback to optimize yields. Because shortening cycle time increases margins significantly, improving cycle time is an ongoing quest.

In its latest initiative, Seagate turned to Brooks-PRI Automation Inc. (Chelmsford, MA) for an integrated automation solution that would enable Seagate to be first to market with more innovative products, and help maximize its yield-to-control costs. Seagate selected Brooks' Factoryworks software to integrate its MES activities and manufacturing control requirements, as well as streamline the operation's flow of materials and information.

Seagate also chose Factoryworks because of its favorable cost and benefit performance ratio, configurability, and flexible framework to accommodate a changing architecture. In addition, Factoryworks was customizable and scalable to suit the way Seagate conducts its business, allowing it to customize operational and dispatch rules appropriate for its particular environment.

Seagate also selected Brooks' Xsite software for computerized maintenance management. It also decided to use Brooks' Advanced Productivity Family (APF), which consists of an array of software tools, including APF Reporter, AutoSched AP, and Real Time Dispatcher (RTD). Following a six-week implementation process, Brooks' Factoryworks and APF products went live at the Normandale facility in May 2001. Xsite's implementation was completed in October 2001.

"The impact of Factoryworks, along with APF and Xsite, has been dramatic," says Mr. Diddell. "With APF, we have real-time processing point verification, which informs you instantly where the lots are in the process. Our dispatching, prioritizing and scheduling are also done in real-time to optimize capital usage and minimize cycle time. And we have automated several key processes that were once done manually, such as processes requiring customized recipes, which is saving time and increasing accuracy.

"In the past two years, we've seen about a 20% overall process yields improvement in the Normandale facility, as well as several percent downstream yield improvements due to tighter control.

"We can also access more history and track down more information than ever before. Having information on factory performance closer at hand allows us to more rapidly identify issues and opportunities."

For more information Brooks .

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