Published on 12-Nov-2013
"The IBM Power Systems servers have performed exceptionally well to date, providing the performance and availability that we need." - Xavier Michallet, Manufacturing IT Manager, Soitec
Fabrication & Assembly
Application Infrastructure, Automation, Data Warehouse, High Availability , Information Integration, Smarter Computing
With manufacturing and research and development (R&D) centers in France, Singapore, Germany and the U.S., Soitec is a major manufacturer of semiconductor-based materials and products for the electronics and energy industries. Its products include concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) modules which use optics to enhance the performance and energy-efficiency of solar systems in very sunny parts of the world. To support the construction of major utility-scale solar plants in the U.S., Soitec recently set up a 176,000 square foot manufacturing center in San Diego, California.
Soitec’s reputation depends on the quality and longevity of its high-tech products; its concentrator photovoltaic modules must work efficiently for up to 25 years, making quality control a key issue.
Engaged IBM to deploy an automated manufacturing quality-control system enabling near-real-time data analysis on IBM Power® 740 and Power 720 servers, with IBM AIX® and IBM PowerVM® virtualization.
Highlights anomalies, supporting near-real-time adjustments in manufacturing; reduces wastage and saves time and effort; provides traceability back to raw materials; substantially boosts output.
To read a French version of this case study, click here.
With manufacturing and research and development (R&D) centers in France, Singapore, Germany and the U.S., Soitec is a major manufacturer of semiconductor-based materials and products for the electronics and energy industries.
Its products include concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) modules which use optics to enhance the performance and energy-efficiency of solar systems in very sunny parts of the world. To support the construction of major utility-scale solar plants in the U.S., Soitec recently set up a 176,000 square foot manufacturing center in San Diego, California.
Smarter manufacturing means being able to flag up and resolve variances in quality as they emerge, making targeted adjustments to the assembly line to avoid wasting time and raw materials. Especially in high-tech manufacture, where raw materials and components may be costly, and where the tolerance for manufacturing defects is extremely low, it is critical to have near-real-time visibility of quality – which requires the ability to rapidly analyze vast quantities of data direct from the production lines.
Soitec’s CPV modules must operate for 15 to 25 years, so quality control is a top priority. To meet its annual production capacity of 280 MW, the company wanted a manufacturing execution system (MES) solution capable of monitoring manufacturing quality and responding intelligently to variances.
Xavier Michallet, Manufacturing IT Manager at Soitec, comments: “Our challenge for the new manufacturing plant was to be able to ensure the stability and quality of our CPV modules, as well as the traceability of different batches and components. We wanted to put in place Statistical Process Control, so that we could detect anomalies as fast as possible and notify machine operators on the production line almost in real time.”
Following an RFP process looking at factors such as technical quality, brand strength and pricing, Soitec engaged IBM Global Business Services – Application Innovation Services to develop a customized MES solution called ASMView in just three months.
“IBM had very strong consulting credentials, with an excellent understanding of our industry,” comments Xavier Michallet. “Crucially, IBM was able to offer a full end-to-end solution, including consultancy, software development and the final hardware and software platform—which was much easier than trying to piece together offerings from different vendors.”
ASMView is based on the IBM View Series for semiconductor manufacturing, including SiView Standard, LCDView, GlassView, SolarView and WaferView, with IBM DB2® and IBM WebSphere® technologies. Instrumentation on the production line delivers large volumes of data for near-real-time analysis in the statistical process control module, enabling Soitec to detect trends in production quality based on product and process parameters. The solution measures variances against norms and can take automatic corrective actions to recalibrate equipment and address quality issues.
The IBM eDat reporting module provides dashboards of current and historical production KPIs including yield, throughput, machine downtime and cycle time, supporting improved decision-making by production managers.
Soitec worked with Key Information Systems, Inc., an IBM Premier Business Partner, to deploy an IBM Power® 740 Express server to run the database servers for the ASMView solution and a Power 720 Express server for the application servers.
It also worked with IBM Premier Business Partner Zobrist Consulting Group to install and configure the ASMView solution itself. The IBM Power Systems™ servers are both AIX Solution Editions: preconfigured hardware with IBM PowerVM® and optimized versions of IBM WebSphere Application Server.
The IBM Power Systems servers provide high availability in support of Soitec’s demanding manufacturing schedules, and the use of PowerVM means that the company can seamlessly deploy new functionality without system downtime.
“We need complete reliability for manufacturing control, because any downtime would be very costly,” says Xavier Michallet. “Due to the large data volumes involved, we needed to deploy the solution at our San Diego manufacturing plant rather than in our headquarters in France.
“We wanted a platform that would keep running with minimal supervision, reflecting the fact that we have a smaller IT team in the U.S. The IBM Power Systems servers have performed exceptionally well to date, providing the performance and availability that we require.”
Faster and more efficient
With the ASMView solution running on IBM Power Systems servers, Soitec can detect and resolve quality issues almost as soon as they emerge, enabling it to avoid costly re-work or even wastage of manufactured components.
As the solution flags these manufacturing excursions almost 100 percent of the time, it reduces the need for time-consuming post-production quality inspections.
The ASMView solution also enables the traceability and proactive recall of any modules that are considered likely to develop quality defects during solar plant operations, giving Soitec’s clients reassurance about the long-term viability of the products.
“As soon as measurements are made on our production lines, we have the statistics at our fingertips to reveal variances,” comments Xavier Michallet.
“The ability to analyze data almost in real time enables us to react much faster, and because we can detect quality excursions at the level of individual machines, we can immediately target our remediation efforts to precisely the right place. Identifying issues as they happen rather than at the end of the process means less wastage—saving time, effort and money.”
Automation and visibility
By enabling modifications to the manufacturing processes to take place in close to real time, automated MES solutions can significantly reduce interruptions to production. For this reason, the Soitec facility in San Diego is estimated to be able to produce substantially greater output than smaller factories that lack such an automated quality-control solution.
By integrating data from ASMView with its ERP system, Soitec can more accurately monitor consumption of raw materials and understand its manufacturing costs in greater detail. The company also has a more detailed view of yield and quality variance over time, supporting longer-term process optimization.
“The IBM solution gives us much better visibility of both historic and current data,” says Xavier Michallet. “We can analyze trends over time and see where there is room for improvement in our processes. And with the solution running on the ultra-reliable IBM Power Systems platform, we can focus on our manufacturing SLAs and on improving service to our clients rather than needing to worry about infrastructure.”
For more information
To learn more about IBM Power Systems solutions, contact your IBM sales representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit us at: ibm.com/power
To learn more about products, services and solutions from Key Information Systems, Inc., please visit: www.keyinfo.com
To learn more about products, services and solutions from Zobrist Consulting Group, Inc., please visit: www.zobristinc.com
Products and services used
IBM products and services that were used in this case study.
Power 720 AIX Solution Edition, Power 740 AIX Solution Edition, Power Systems
AIS: Application Development, GBS S&T: Operations and Supply Chain, IBM Global Business Services
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