Your Favorite Gadget Works Because a HEPA Filter Kept Particles Out of the Fab
Nearly every consumer gadget has a little black square integrated circuit (IC) chip that acts the brains & heart of the gadget. These little black square ICs are manufactured in factories called “semiconductor fabs”. IC chips pack a lot of electronics into one small package - which means that a single particle of dust in the air will render the entire IC chip useless. That is why the air inside the semiconductor fab has to be very clean – so clean that it is more pristine than surgical operating rooms. The air inside the semiconductor fab is kept ultra clean with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter, which keeps very small air particulates out of the semiconductor fab. To illustrate how hard a HEPA filter has to work, let's take an Apple iPhone X as an example. The Apple iPhone X contains an “A11 Bionic” IC chip that is the main processor for the phone. This IC chip has critical dimensions of 10nm – which is around 10X smaller than fine air particles, and roughly 200X smaller than the width of fine hair. Air particles or debris such as hair will render an IC chip useless - sometimes not immediately but painfully over time. A HEPA system (in addition to other measures) will help minimize the chance that air particles will land an IC chip and kill it.
Using IoT to Monitor & Predicatively Alert Filter Condition
Because the quality of an IC chip is related to the cleanliness of semiconductor fab, which is a direct function of how clean the HEPA filters are, filters are tracked carefully. One way to measure of the efficacy of a filter is to use IoT that can monitor assets. With IoT, either a light based (to test the opacity of the filter), time based (how much time have the filter been in operation), or air flow based (how much air flowed through the filter) can be used as a metric to see how clean the filter is. Because it is IoT, the sample is performed at real time and when the dirtiness-metrics hit a preset level, an alert can be send to the technician to re-order. But that is only the start. If the data from the IoT is sent to an analytic platform, a prediction about the state of the filter can be made to order well in advance of its failure. Ordering in advance can provide several benefits, including cost advantage (more time to shop for a filter), logistics advantages (can pick the best rate to ship the filter), and resource advantages (plan early to have the technician be available to install the filter, preventing lines down). The IoT platform can also be connected to the filter purchase order system to automatically order the filter, making best of the prediction by the IoT platform.
Order Management - Orchestration of Filter Purchase
Some HEPA filters, such as class 1 filters, are not as commonly found as the lower class filters. So if you are manually ordering this filter, your might have to call multiple suppliers to find the filter. For each supplier, you need to tell them the filter model, ask for availability and price, and then ask for delivery and arrival time that is suitable for your receiving dock and technician. If the supplier is unavailable (doesn’t answer the phone, does not have an online system, online system does not have real time inventory), you need to leave a message and wait. But if you have an Order Management system, all of this headache is gone. Your order will be orchestrated through the system to see who has it, price, when it can be delivered. To boost automation one step more, your IoT system can trigger the purchase of one of these filters automatically. Now begins the shipment.
Shipment Acceptance & Installation of Filter
As the filter is delivered from the supplier to your semiconductor fab, having advanced notice of the arrival of the filter will help to have the receiving dock ready, the right technician available (certified to work on the HEPA system), the proper conditions already setup (isolate area to minimize manufacturing disruption). IoT again can help to provide the advanced notice. IoT technology can be used to track the geo-location of the shipment, and this information can be shared with the shipment receiving so that they can be ready to prepare the filter so that the qualified technician can install it.
Order Management Saves the Day, IoT Saves the Day Even More
The scenario above described the process for one HEPA filter. What if you had hundreds of filters? What if you had another hundreds of these “perishable” types of supply – such as raw materials, spare parts, indirect spend materials, or even capital equipment? The powerful combination of IoT (detect something needs to be re-ordered) and Order Management (pick the best option to re-order) enables you to simultaneously reduce downtime and reduce cost.