Case Study: Semiconductor Company Increases Test Equipment Utilization

This semiconductor design unit was growing and leading in market share with its core business.  Their test asset management practices were non-standard and ad hoc.  Nobody knew how well test equipment was being used.  It turned out test equipment utilization was very low.  The director of engineering thought they were spending too much time in the testing process and too little time designing.  He didn’t have concrete facts but could tell that their test asset management practices – or lack of – were creating distractions for his engineers.

The Challenge 

The business was focused on maintaining and growing its leading market share position in its core business.  In addition, they wanted to leverage their core knowledge to expand into new markets.

To enable their growth and flexibility leadership was looking for ways to drive efficiency into their design operations.  They had a plan to install test labs on strategic customer sites to grow their relationship and market share but had yet to determine how to fund it. They had a sense test equipment utilization would play an important role.

After exploring their options the company turned to The Sente Group to gather the facts regarding their test assets and the management of those assets.  Sente’s fact-finding work revealed the following snapshot of the test environment:

  • Test equipment utilization was 9%
  • Ongoing costs were high due to a wide range of non-standard equipment and test methods
  • Calibration cycle time was 8 to 10 days with 5% of the inventory past due or extended
  • Division personnel operating in a “silos” mentality that had reinforced hoarding of equipment and schedules producing costly habits that had proven hard to break.
  • Engineering distractions due to ineffective management of test equipment resulted in about 2 hours of wasted time each week for every engineer and technician

Sente also delivered a blueprint for future action that specified the financial and operational impacts that could realize through strategic management of its test resources.  Sente’s analysis suggested that moving forward with a TRM solution would help the company increase test equipment utilization, the efficiency and flexibility of its design operations, and lower overall costs.

The Solution

After analyzing Sente’s Total Cost of Ownership model to confirm that Sente’s custom-tailored solution to drive test equipment utilization made sound financial sense, leadership in the company approved moving ahead with implementation.

The division controller confirmed that the company wanted to understand Sente’s Total Cost of Ownership model – which was very detailed – and make sure the cost savings were real.  After review, their analysis confirmed that Test Resource Management (TRM) would save money.  But at the end of the day, they reported they moved forward because of the increased capacity the solution would provide to their engineering organization.”

Rather than have Sente tailor and install TRM and then train their personnel to execute it, the business chose to put Sente personnel on-site to take full responsibility for performance using Sente’s award-winning software and related services.

Sente’s solution continued to evolve and mature.  More effective standardization of test assets, test benches/setups combined with asset optimization and process acceleration practices using CoordinateTRM has delivered higher utilization, lower costs, and faster cycle times.   Additionally, Sente’s detailed technology plans—which include clear capital justification—enabled the business to secure hard-to-get capital ahead of other divisions.

Customer leadership knew market share could grow with one of their strategic customers with an on-site application lab.  Unfortunately, the timing coincided with a corporate freeze on capital spending. Sente’s TRM solutions bridged the gaps.

The Results

  • Test equipment utilization increased to over 40% as hoarding ended
  • Instituted shared test benches process resulting in:
    • 40% increase in test equipment bench utilization
    • 100% engineering satisfaction rating
  • Calibration cycle time reduced by 68%
  • Past due calibrations reduced to 0 for 28 consecutive months
  • The capacity provided by Sente’s TRM solution enabled the company to move forward with the customer-based lab doubling their market share with that account.

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