Sustainability in semiconductor manufacturing with digital transformation: Expert interview series, Manish Sharma

Manufacturing digital transformation (Dx) uses technologies to achieve business key performance indicators. It requires process control equipment, a Dx mindset and buy-in at all levels, executives to shop-floor workers, said Manish Sharma, global industry marketing leader, Emerson Machine Automation Solutions. See video.

By Manish Sharma June 10, 2022
Courtesy: Emerson Machine Automation Solutions

 

Learning Objectives

  • Discover how digital transformation helps sustainability for semiconductor manufacturing and other industries.
  • Learn what semiconductor trends are driving technology selection and how that may relate to other industries.
  • Review what technology types help with operational optimization, digital twins and monitoring water and energy.
  • Identify the key features and components of process control technology necessary for digital transformation.

Semiconductor manufacturing has sustainability challenges, including using large amounts of water and electricity for precise manufacturing processes; fortunately, digital transformation (Dx) can help semiconductor manufacturers. Digital transformation also helps sustainability efforts for manufacturers outside of semiconductor manufacturing, explained Manish Sharma, global industry marketing leader, Emerson Machine Automation Solutions, in a video interview with Control Engineering.

Included below are some additional insights not in the tutorial video, which runs about 34 minutes.

Manish Sharma leads the industry marketing segment for semiconductor, energy and water industries at Emerson and has been with the company since 2011. He has 20 years of experience in marketing, product management, and control systems R&D and holds three U.S. patents for control systems solutions.

1. Please share some things about your background that helps with what you’re doing now.

I have been fortunate to have worked for top organizations like Emerson, GE and Honeywell in the field of industrial automation. During my career, I have worn several hats, including software developer, product architect, product management, and global marketing. This mix of experience has allowed me to work with end customers and solve their most pressing problems.

I like to think in terms of “What matters most to the customer and how can I help solve their most pressing problems?” While a customer knows the day-to-day operational problems and where to go next in technology deployment, I believe it’s important to have a consultative solution conceptualization approach and have meaningful conversations beyond just product procurement.

2. What do you consider digital transformation, and how can that help semiconductor manufacturing?

Digital transformation has become a buzz word. Simplistically speaking, it’s using the power of confluence that various available technologies like automation and data science bring to achieve business key performance indicators (KPIs). The more we know what’s possible, the more digital transformation we can achieve. Advancing Dx maturity is an incremental journey (See Figure 1), and every manufacturer has to start at an appropriate stage. This is not simply about buying a control system, and then you have an automatic transformation. Along with the process control equipment, must come a Dx mindset and buy-in at all levels – from executives to shopfloor workers.

The industry-accepted roadmap involves better digitization and data collection via smart sensors feeding data to smart programmable logic controllers (PLCs). The data collected can be stored in a cloud or by using an enterprise level data management software like Emerson Plantweb Data Lake or a fast access historian, depending upon the scale of application. This data can be acted upon by different custom or ready-made machine learning (ML) algorithms and can help derive process and equipment insights. Edge technology performs algorithmic processes on hypervised PLCs (edge control) or industrial PCs (edge computing) to provide control interventions and insights directly at the machine edge, close to the process. These insights can be about process efficiency, equipment failure or even better plant design via something called digital twin, where the process can be simulated even before it is deployed.

Figure 1: Different stages of the Dx journey are monitor, diagnose, predict, optimize and learn, according to Manish Sharma, global industry marketing leader, Emerson Machine Automation Solutions, in a video interview with Control Engineering. Courtesy: Emerson Machine Automation Solutions

Figure 1: Different stages of the Dx journey are monitor, diagnose, predict, optimize and learn, according to Manish Sharma, global industry marketing leader, Emerson Machine Automation Solutions, in a video interview with Control Engineering. Courtesy: Emerson Machine Automation Solutions

Typical business KPIs that digital transformation helps executives solve are enhanced production for better capex utilization, reduced waste for lower operating expense and non-stop operations for enhanced overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). Plant managers are more interested in predicting failures, scheduling maintenance of machines on a condition basis, instead of having scheduled-based maintenance, having more deterministic control of output per shift, inventory control and other manufacturing parameters.

Digital transformation allows manufacturing systems to be integrated with enterprise resource planning (ERP) to have an overall integrated transformed system, including ordering, inventory management, production planning and machine level insights. This permits continuous overall improvement of all areas of the plant and enables better monitoring and coordination of production and balance of plant systems to ensure optimal foundry performance.

Digital transformation helps sustainability efforts

A huge element of Dx is its impact on sustainability. This is very important, especially for the semiconductor industry. Foundries are getting bigger to become more competitive. There is a seemingly insatiable market appetite, and tremendous pressure on foundries to meet their contractual obligations, satisfy new demands and gain market share. The semiconductor industry is extremely capital expenditure (capex) intensive. The chip sizes are getting ultradense at the nano scale. To deliver the new generation chips, machines are getting more sophisticated.

The processes use huge amounts of various mixes of corrosive gases and ultrapure water and must meet extremely high standards for clean rooms where fabrication takes place. The demand on power and water is extremely high. The need to optimize power consumption and recirculate ultrapure water is paramount. The HVAC system for the clean room atmosphere must be extremely reliable to ensure a clean environment and that no damage is done to work-in-progress inventory due to particle ingress and temperature fluctuations. An integrated supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system that connects different subsystems and supports a wide range of protocols to provide a centralized view of the foundry is very important too.

Digital transformation of a foundry of any scale can help meet these challenges and business KPIs. Emerson has an excellent range of solutions for semiconductor industry digital transformation, including sensors, valves, actuators, regulators, edge controllers and industrial PCs running Emerson PACEdge, and the Emerson Plantweb Data Lake. Emerson Movicon.NExT™ SCADA supports a wide range of protocols and user-developed third-party drivers to provide fully integrated central monitoring and control.

3. What does sustainability at semiconductor plants include, and how is the semiconductor industry doing compared to other industries?

Around 46 liters of ultrapure water are required to manufacture one square inch of a microchip. The power utilization footprint of one square inch of microchip is around 7.5 kWh. In addition to water and power, tremendous amounts of corrosive gases are used in the process. The demand for power and water is so high for semiconductor fabrication, that a seasonal drought can jeopardize factory output. Semiconductor plant factories [fabrication plants, or fabs, foundries] typically consume water equivalent to a mid-sized city’s usage per day.

Sustainability initiatives at semiconductor foundries are not only about cost reduction, but also about operational continuity. As technology gets more sophisticated, power, water and gas consumption in the process increases.

Because of this operational continuity factor, I believe the semiconductor industry is more proactive about sustainability compared to other resource-guzzling traditional industries, such as auto manufacturing or agriculture, for example. More can be done in terms of tracking energy consumption metrics at the machine level, raw material waste reduction and other operational efficiency parameters. The more digitally transformed a particular foundry is, the more insights about efficiencies they can derive.

Figure 2: Computing on the edge enables greater visibility, logic, action and analytics, according to Manish Sharma, global industry marketing leader, Emerson Machine Automation Solutions, in a video interview with Control Engineering. Courtesy: Emerson Machine Automation Solutions

Figure 2: Computing on the edge enables greater visibility, logic, action and analytics, according to Manish Sharma, global industry marketing leader, Emerson Machine Automation Solutions, in a video interview with Control Engineering. Courtesy: Emerson Machine Automation Solutions

4. How are semiconductor fabrication plants tracking and reducing energy consumption and, if there are differences to other industries, what are they?

The energy management in fabs is a growing interest area. Some fabricators are truly adopting energy management principles while others have a particular resources consumption band where they are comfortable. A lot of this has to do with market competitive compulsions. While the overall industry is competitive, pockets of product lines exhibit oligopolistic patterns [few market players dominating market dynamics]. Some may have strong market share in the memory chips segment; others may have a strong hold on the core processor segment and so on. Reduced competition within segments dampens the speed of change.

As an extremely capex-intensive industry, semiconductor manufacturers tend to not be “too disruptive” because the fear of breaking what already works and suffering losses can be severe. Such industries have a very cautious technology adoption curve and various factors contribute to evolution. Evolution drivers include government policies, pressure to be more competitive and profitable, as well as machine original equipment manufacturers’ (OEMs) adoption of new technologies at the machine level.

The semiconductor industry, because of the sheer size of the resources it consumes, doesn’t really have much choice except to embrace changes and evolve. Market leaders are showing the way.

5. What are strategies for increasing manufacturing uptime and availability, and how does that relate to plant-wide OEE?

Everything impacts plant uptime in a manufacturing facility, including raw material inventory availability, equipment level availability and built-in system redundancies.

Redundancies at the machine level, with each costing millions of dollars, is not a practical strategy. The best bet is to enhance cumulative availability of the plant’s individual processes and machines. From a control systems point of view, this translates into:

  1. Highly available PLCs, such as Emerson PACSystems, that provide process continuity even during firmware and hardware upgrades
  2. Edge-computing capabilities like edge-enabled PACSystems PLCs and IPCs
  3. Cybersecure PLCs that are industry gold standards like PACSystems PLCs (Archilles level 2 certified, with encrypted communication)
  4. Energy management solutions like Emerson Movicon Pro.Energy that help monitor resource utilization
  5. Movicon Pro.Lean for plant analytics, lean manufacturing, waste reduction
  6. Movicon SCADA systems that help provide central monitoring and control and alarm dispatching on the go along with advanced report generation.

When these control strategies are adopted at individual machines and process levels, as part of digital transformation, it helps improve plant utilization and OEE. Custom edge analytic applications like equipment insights, energy consumption, frequent faults, waste and resource utilization trends, can be developed. Insights derived can be fine-tuned further. As mentioned earlier, digital transformation is a journey.

6. What types of customers would be most interested in these offerings?

Semiconductor machine OEMs would find IPCs with Emerson PACEdge extremely beneficial in running core propriety processes and having edge connectivity across machines. This enables individual machines to connect to the cloud and interact with other machines and processes for better outcomes. Additionally, power, gas, and water OEMs providing solutions to foundries would be interested in PACSystems edge solutions for enhanced productivity and equipment and process insights. Water skid OEMs can remotely manage their widespread skid fleet using edge controllers and Movicon WebHMI. System integrators can include PACSystems control solutions in the systems they provide. Furthermore, foundry owners would find a comprehensive range of control system choices including PACs, edge computing, variable frequency drives (VFDs), energy monitoring and SCADA solutions to implement their digital transformation journey. These products are indispensable for digital transformation and provide performance, availability, cybersecurity, backward integration and one configuration toolkit across solutions for faster switchover.

Figure 3: Simplified diagram shows a typical solution for a semiconductor manufacturing plant, according to Manish Sharma, global industry marketing leader, Emerson Machine Automation Solutions, in a video interview with Control Engineering. Courtesy: Emerson Machine Automation Solutions

Figure 3: Simplified diagram shows a typical solution for a semiconductor manufacturing plant, according to Manish Sharma, global industry marketing leader, Emerson Machine Automation Solutions, in a video interview with Control Engineering. Courtesy: Emerson Machine Automation Solutions

7. What else would you like to discuss or recommend?

It’s a journey. Start with setting up infrastructure in place.

Be clear about KPIs. Applications will be developed upon what business insights you want.

Choose your platform wisely. You don’t want to end up with a system that is not backward or future compatible and be burdened with costly upgrades down the line.

Choose an easy-to-configure and easy-to-learn control system. Your engineers will be developing custom applications as things progress. You don’t want a system with different software suites for configuring different components. Emerson provides a single toolchain, PAC Machine edition, for all products.

The system should be highly available and help enable easy hardware or software migrations without downtime.

Focus on cybersecurity. As things get more connected, the control system should be robust to thwart any cyberattacks.

Engage with your OEM for better insights and consultative solution development. Augment your command-over process with OEM insights on product utilization.

Manish Sharma is global industry marketing leader, Emerson Machine Automation. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media, mhoske@cfemedia.com.

KEYWORDS: Controls for semiconductor manufacturing, digital twins, edge control, SCADA software, OEE, sustainability, energy consumption, PLC/PAC

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

Discover how digital transformation helps sustainability for semiconductor manufacturing and other industries.

Learn what semiconductor trends are driving technology selection and how that may relate to other industries.

Review what technology types help with operational optimization, digital twins and monitoring water and energy.

Identify the key features and components of process control technology necessary for digital transformation.

CONSIDER THIS

Are your automation and controls implementations accelerating operational and business optimization?


Manish Sharma
Author Bio: Manish Sharma, global industry marketing leader, Emerson Machine Automation Solutions