• National Semiconductor Manufacturing


    eDiagnostics – Knowledge sharing to improve maintenance efficiency in a semiconductor manufacturing plant


    Recurrent equipment breakdowns and the lack of knowledge sharing among our technical staff are the primary reason why we considered building an expert system. Often, equipment breakdowns encountered everyday in our semiconductor manufacturing plant are due to the fact that our technical personnel administered the wrong corrective action, hence the problem reappeared until the right repair action had been taken.

    Lack in knowledge sharing created the differences in the level of repair proficiency amongst our technical staff. Without knowledge sharing, how many times would a similar problem have to surface before all our technical staff has experience in dealing with it? Reinventing the wheel every time is not exactly efficient in today’s competitive market.

    With this objective, we started an initial project called “eDiagnostics”, to model all our company’s senior technicians’ machine troubleshooting experience and generate a systematic way of troubleshooting equipments using decision trees and rules methods. We wanted to be able to transfer all the knowledge onto a centralized database to allow users to tap into this knowledge base and also add in new knowledge without much hassle. Our senior equipment engineer evaluated XpertRule and found that it fitted our requirements for this project, hence XpertRule was chosen as our primary software platform.

    The initial prototype was done relatively effortlessly, thanks to the highly graphical windows based system that allows the programmer in charge of the project to complete the prototype in a minimum time. Being a windows based application allowed the first time users to quickly familiarize themselves to the basic navigational process. The online manual was a major plus as it was written concisely and there were examples included.

    Using it was a breeze for the programmer and certain commands that were rather difficult to use in other higher level programming languages, such as C or C++, could be done almost effortlessly in XpertRule. As we wanted to transfer our knowledge base into a centralized database, accessing the database becomes a very important step when running the application. XpertRule provided easy to use syntax that made assessing the database a simpler procedure that it really is.

    The prototype was put to test and the team was tasked to evaluate the system in terms of its ability to direct the users to the correct result based on the questions that the system asked of the user. The team carried out the system evaluation for a period of 2 weeks and found that on average it directed the users to the correct result approximately 80% of the time, and other metrics showed that the number of recurrent equipment downs reduced.

    Users thought that the system was easy to use and that the systematic approach is basically good as it gives them ideas as to what to look out for when they encounter a similar problem during their course of work.

    With the initial project deemed a success, we are already working to extend the scope of the knowledge to cover more equipment down codes and more accurate troubleshooting procedures.

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