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Vishay Intertechnology makes one of the world’s largest portfolios of discrete semiconductors and passive electronic components, and its devices help drive electronics used in aerospace, automotive, computing, consumer, industrial, military, telecommunications and medical markets. It got to where it is today—with more than 100 factories—in part by following an acquisition strategy, and it tended to develop its own IT systems and processes. So, it’s no surprise the company ended up being saddled with unnecessary—and costly—complexity.
Since 2018, the Malvern, Pennsylvania-based company’s passives business unit has been moving toward one manufacturing execution system (MES). It chose the one offered by Critical Manufacturing after a selection process that, in addition, concluded the core MES functionality could replace several MES-like legacy systems, Augusto Vilarinho, head of business development at Critical Manufacturing, told EE Times.
Some companies replacing legacy systems choose either an on-premises or a cloud-based MES. Vishay, however, is taking a hybrid approach. The company piloted the implementation of the new MES at a multi-line plant, and it is now in process of deploying the solution at a global scale, he said.
“For some customers with a highly automated environment, where performance and connectivity are key, a sub-second response is required,” and can be accomplished via a hybrid solution, Vilarinho said. “This means that, for example, the core features are in a cloud platform that can serve multiple sites. We have a contract with Vishay for more than 30 factories, and they are replacing more than 50 legacy applications. With equipment integration installed in lightweight hardware, they have connectivity that is highly performing and close to the physical assets, and the rest of the solution in the cloud.”
The hybrid approach, which has buffering mechanisms, ensures the reliability needed in highly automated environments, as well as the flexibility needed to embrace a customer center of excellence that will own the MES roadmap and global implementation, he said.
Critical Manufacturing, a Porto, Portugal-based unit of Hong Kong-based ASM Pacific Technology, has on-hand product-development staffers dedicated to investigating when on-premises or cloud-based—or even a hybrid of the two—makes sense for each prospective MES customer. Those employees enabled the installation of the solution in containers, which are commonly used to provide increased flexibility in a modern IT manufacturing infrastructure.
Other companies that have signed up for an MES from Critical Manufacturing include TDK Electronics, with another global project, and Preh, a German tier 1 supplier of automotive electronics components. In the latter case, the MES is replacing legacy solutions in its six manufacturing sites.
“Within the Preh case, with the same solution, we embrace totally different processes that include mold injection, painting, SMT (surface mounting technology), manual and automated assembly, and packing and shipping,” Vilarinho said.
Additionally, the MES Critical Manufacturing proffers has attracted Belgium’s imec, one of the largest semiconductor R&D organizations in the world, and Germany’s cooperative Research Fab Microelectronics Germany (Forschungsfabrik Mikroelektronik Deutschland, or FMD)—for use in R&D activities that are based in experimental lots rather than mass production.
Aimed at furthering semiconductor innovation mechanisms, Critical Manufacturing produced one common MES to be shared by 10 of the FMD’s 13 institutes. In promotional material, FMD said it “combines the advantages of two strong decentralized research organizations—Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and Leibniz Association—with the synergies of a centralized organization,” and intends to be “the world’s most powerful provider for applied research, development and innovation in the micro- and nanoelectronics sector.”
Going forward, Critical Manufacturing is counting on the fact that it has been “quite active in both semiconductor and electronics,” Vilarinho said. “Segment-specific, out-of-the-box features are a major differentiator of our solution, because it’s tightly coupled with the capacity, or the capabilities, that semiconductor and electronics have, which are in certain aspects quite unique.
We are able to embrace, let’s say, the particularities or the requirements from a software perspective, because we are pure software house, and we provide an MES that covers the semiconductor processes. And that goes from the wafer-manufacturing processes to the electronics-assemble processes, including SMT and manual assembles.”
To be able to address a wide array of processes, from those involved with the raw materials to those involved with the finished goods, Critical Manufacturing evolved the infrastructure that lies behind the pure MES.
The infrastructure has been and continues to be reconfigurable. Now, however, it is “leaning toward a no-code solution,” Vilarinho said. That lets customers model and configure the solution on their own—without having to do development.
The solution is, he added, reconfigurable within electronics manufacturing and semiconductor manufacturing—and between the two. “We have customers that only have semiconductor processes. We have customers that only have electronics assemble and manufacturing, like SMT related processes. And we have customers that have both.”