Electronics and Semiconductors

How semiconductor and electronics manufacturers are using optimization to improve efficiency and manage bottlenecks in manufacturing and supply chain processes

It is a critical time for the electronics and semiconductor industries. Economic volatility, cyclical demand, short product life cycles and highly complex supply chains are among the industry’s ongoing challenges. Add to that today’s delivery backlogs, supply chain disruptions and the slowness in bringing new production facilities online and manufacturers face tremendously consequential make-or-break decisions.

Decision support software systems that incorporate widely-used mathematical optimization and operations management methods present a relatively fast, flexible and low-cost way to tackle hard operational planning and scheduling decisions to ease production and supply chain bottlenecks and increase throughput in the short term. They are commonly used to support long-term/strategic planning decisions and mid-term tactical decisions.

These systems can be easily adapted to also accommodate future business changes so that planning and scheduling decisions can be made with a full view of all available situational data. This could include business objectives, supply and demand actuals and forecasts, resource constraints and any other considerations.

Packaged vs Custom Software Solutions

Packaged planning and scheduling systems rarely meet the needs of semiconductor and electronics manufacturers. For this reason, most manufacturers’ processes are still planned and scheduled either manually or with the help of custom-developed software systems. Packaged on-the-shelf systems tend to be very feature-limited and are hard to maintain or enhance. As a result, process inefficiencies are widespread.

Production Planning & Scheduling

Production planning and scheduling in semiconductor manufacturing is a good example of a use case that can bring tremendous efficiency improvements through optimization approaches because of its complexity. It can involve hundreds of steps and specific constraints such as reentrant flows, sequencing rules, suppliers’ constraints (capacity and lead times), different kinds of machines (parallel, batch, cluster), failures and preventive maintenance requirements. Optimization-based systems used advanced mathematical approaches running on high-performance computers to quickly sift through millions of possible solutions and present the ”best” according to the planner’s desired trade-off between the various objectives (such as balancing cost and service level).

The DecisionBrain Difference

DecisionBrain offers a modular software platform that enables the rapid development of fully-custom planning, scheduling and logistics systems at a very reasonable cost. The team has over 400 person-years of experience delivering decision support applications across industries, several of which are with semiconductor and electronics manufacturers. Sample use cases are listed below.
Strategic & Tactical Planning Opportunities
  • Long-term planning to balance weekly labor workload and optimize materials and parts sourcing
  • Strategic capacity planning to determine optimal product mix
  • Mid-term capacity planning (e.g. WIP projection)
  • Production planning in wafer fabrication
  • Optimizing layout and placement of compatible part numbers
Operational Scheduling Opportunities
  • Scheduling of wafer fab activities
  • Lot-sizing and scheduling during assembly
  • Scheduling of automated wet-edge stations
  • Scheduling of PCB assembly line activities
Benefits realized through implementation of optimization-based decision support systems
  • Increased throughput and decreased cycle time
  • Important reduction in variability and a better workload balancing
  • Improved level of factory automation
  • Balanced upstream product choice to ensure downstream process efficiency
  • Increased on-time delivery
  • Minimized outsourced quantity
  • Reduced WIP

Customer Case Study: Smart Planning and Scheduling for Electronics

Optimization solution that provides a consistent, systematic approach to production planning and scheduling according to the business needs for a fast-growing producer of high-end Printed Circuit Boards

Read more about this case study.