Steady Progress in Digital Transformation (DX)
SUMCO established the AI Promotion Division in 2018. Today we are successfully applying AI technologies to manufacturing activities in system infrastructure areas including production control and process control. For each stage of the production processes, for example, we are collecting quality information and process information as Big Data, and associating and analyzing this information toward both greater productivity and higher quality, as we build the capability for real-time prediction. In addition, we are seeking to raise our competitiveness in commodity areas having the biggest demand, establishing a firm profit base.
Our aim is to be the top company in the area of digital transformation (DX).
Main aims of our digital transformation
We are working to achieve real-time monitoring and automation of production processes and to establish a production capability and production plans capable of flexibly meeting market demand fluctuations. We are also seeking to increase the agility of the organization by expanding the areas where AI is employed. By realizing rapid data analysis in the technology fields of our leading-edge products, and speeding up the time from development to mass production, we are further boosting our competitive advantage.
DX Promotion Strategy
More efficient manufacturing and development through digital transformation (DX)
We are promoting DX based on the know-how and vast data assets we have accumulated over many years of business activities.
By introducing these technologies, we are seeking to improve productivity and quality, and to achieve stable operation, in such ways further boosting our competitive advantage. Toward becoming a more agile company, we will further promote digital transformation by introducing AI technology, enabling us to adapt quickly to changes in the market environment.
Successes and extent of achievement to date
Improving productivity at plants based on AI technology, data science, and IoT technologies
One of the chief objectives in pursuing DX at SUMCO is to raise the productivity of our plants, enabling us to meet the voracious demand for semiconductors.
The Production Division and AI Promotion Division worked closely together to tackle productivity issues, achieving an improvement of more than 10% in total wafers produced at our main 300 mm wafer plant, where there was no leeway for adding new equipment.
This much improvement is equivalent to more than 30 billion yen saved in capital expenditures and more than 4 billion yen in additional annual profit.
- It was achieved by taking measures like the following.
- • Devised the means for real-time acquisition and visualization of operation status and processing efficiency for all equipment in the plant.
- • Made a detailed quantitative assessment of production line balance and bottlenecks, and implemented an array of measures focused on raising processing efficiency.
- • By means of per-second time chart analysis, reduced operation variability across equipment to an absolute minimum.
- • Eliminated logistics waste based on a detailed analysis of actual conveyance data inside the plant.
- • Employed machine learning to automate specialized decision-making that had relied on the expertise of engineers, reducing process stoppage time.
- Further, through such steps as linking automated guided vehicles (AGV) and collaborative robots (co-bots) with production equipment, we are actively taking on the challenge of transforming existing plants into smart factories, as we continue with efforts to raise labor productivity and create a better working environment for employees.
Deploying DX tools to promote operation efficiency
DX tools is the general term used at SUMCO for tools that support operation efficiency, including BI tools,※1 RPA,※2and workflow systems.※3and workflow systems.
The results so far are work savings of more than 50,000 hours a year, and reduction in paper use by more than 80,000 sheets a year.
By continuing to introduce DX tools of various kinds and making them a regular part of operations, we will seek to improve product quality along with work efficiency.
Adapting flexibly to different work styles in the “new normal” era
Even before the pandemic, we had introduced a secure remote work system from the standpoint of BCP (business continuity planning). Taking advantage of this system, we switched to a full teleworking arrangement in the Tokyo region from the beginning of April 2020, ahead of the first state of emergency declaration.
Meetings to discuss management decisions were also changed to remote ones, and management has continued to be carried out seamlessly making use of the electronic approval system already in place.
While adapting to work styles for a new era, we will continue implementing measures aimed at achieving a high level of diversity.
- ※1 BI tools（BI＝Business Intelligence）
- Tools used to collect and analyze various data in support of on-site and management decision making.
- ※2 RPA（RPA＝Robotic Process Automation）
- Technology for automating computer-based processes and tasks to replace human labor.
- ※3 Workflow system
- A system that computerizes various requests in an organization to make the checking and approvals process more efficient.