Semiconductor MES: The Semiconductor Manufacturing Software That Manages Everything

Semiconductor MES

Semiconductor MES is the semiconductor manufacturing software tool that is at the heart of digital transformation for any business in the semiconductor industry. Its integration into a wafer fabrication plant’s infrastructure has the potential to provide engineers and managers with greater control over the processes and equipment used. Analysis of the data captured can give clues to where continuous improvement can be made to increase performance and efficiency.

Let’s find out what a semiconductor MES is, what its functionality is like, and the many benefits it can provide to a manufacturer. We’ll also learn how it can ultimately help a business reduce its cost of manufacturing, achieve a higher yield, and create better products. Finally, we’ll learn how smart manufacturing concepts currently in development will shape the MES of tomorrow.  

What Is A Semiconductor MES?

What Is A Semiconductor MES | Inquivix Technologies

A semiconductor MES or Manufacturing Execution System is a comprehensive software solution used to gather data directly from the machines in the production line, monitor the manufacturing process from raw materials to finished products, and allow key decision-makers at the fabrication plant floor like engineers and managers to optimize production. They provide great transparency over semiconductor manufacturing operations and agility for the continuous improvement of processes. 

In addition to this, semiconductor manufacturers can use their MES for production scheduling and deliver up-to-date instructions to production teams on the work shift. Maintaining an audit trail for products with complete track and trace can be done with the MES when manufacturing semiconductor products for highly regulated industries like aerospace, medical, and defense. 

The new breed of Semiconductor MES software has the ability to harness emerging technologies like smart sensors to obtain real-time data from the production floor, and machine learning to process data, allowing engineers to better understand the information at their fingertips. 

These smart manufacturing methods allow a semiconductor fab to experiment with new processing methods and materials without slowing down day-to-day operations, ramp up production accordingly, and reliably apply the same workflow across multiple fabrication plants. The time from product introduction to market can be improved as well. 

Benefits Of MES For Semiconductor Manufacturers

Semiconductor manufacturers have much to gain by using an MES.

Benefits Of MES For Semiconductor Manufacturers | Inquivix Technologies

Quality Control

With real-time data being gathered from sensors deployed across all the equipment in the production line, and being analyzed, the MES can alert the manufacturer as soon as an issue is detected. Operations can be halted to prevent a manufacturing defect from being passed down the production line, reducing wastage, scrap, and rework costs.

Increasing Uptime

The MES can be used to perform scheduling, and resources like employees, materials, and equipment can be allocated based on requirements and availability. Maintenance management can be scheduled as well with tooling maintenance, mask cleaning, and more performed when needed to ensure hardware doesn’t break down. The overall equipment effectiveness is improved, and asset utilization can be maximized.

Reducing Inventory

An MES can maintain up-to-date information on finished productions, scrap, and non-conforming material. This allows the semiconductor manufacturing company’s purchasing and shipping departments to know what is available at any given time. This reduces the need for manufacturers to maintain large just-in-case style inventories. Work-in-progress inventories can be reduced as well. This can lower the cost of expensive storage and inventory management systems.

Reducing Paperwork

Data from the machines are gathered digitally, and with proper integration, the MES can ensure decision-makers receive vital information in real-time. There is no paperwork to slow down communication between team members. This reduces the chance of human error as well.

Track and Trace

The entire product lifecycle from raw materials to the final product can be tracked using the MES. The manufacturing data for batches of products or in some cases for individual components can be retrieved. Regulatory compliance is simplified when manufacturing for key industries that require it, and products can be quickly recalled if needed. Semiconductor manufacturers can also show the processing history of a product and become qualified for standards such as ISO 9001. 

The Functions Of A Semiconductor Manufacturing Execution System

The MES is a tool that can be utilized by manufacturers to monitor and control all the technologies, personnel, and other resources available. It can help optimize processes, and with continuous improvement, create products with higher quality that meet the growing demand from consumers. By integrating an MES into its manufacturing infrastructure, a business can gain a competitive edge in the industry. These are the many essential functions that a semiconductor manufacturing software or MES is capable of.

The Functions Of A Semiconductor Manufacturing Execution System | Inquivix Technologies

Manufacturing Process Control

The manufacturing process is the sequence of steps that turn raw materials into a finished product. In semiconductor manufacturing, allocating wafers, various stages of photolithography to create the integrated circuits, and then careful inspection of each wafer could be some of the steps involved. Each step requires materials, equipment, personnel, and process instructions which are like the recipe that details what is done. There are also settings to which the hardware needs to be calibrated for the specific process and consumables like chemicals that are used during the process step but do not become part of the finished product. 

All of these workflows can be defined within an MES, allowing managers to view the resources available and have total control over allocating them. Work in progress can also be managed with information about work orders being processed currently, and the corresponding batches of products.


By using real-time data feeding into an MES, managers can optimize semiconductor manufacturing by scheduling operations based on their priorities or availability of resources. Scheduling is important when the workflow needs to handle multiple work orders from different buyers. These work orders also need to be distributed among the different production lines, equipment, and production teams that are on the shift.

The MES can track the due date for a semiconductor wafer batch to be completed and based on current performance, estimate when it will be ready. This can help managers understand if they are ahead of or behind schedule for specific work orders, allowing them to make adjustments based on priority.

Labour Management

The technicians or equipment operators present for each shift can be distributed accordingly through the MES. Labor usage can be optimized as well, by being able to track the specific skill sets of each worker, time logging of their shifts, and even monitoring the accuracy of their past work. 

Quality Control And Product Genealogy

Genealogy reports can be obtained from the MES which document each product’s history through the manufacturing process. This is enabled by product tracking through the use of serial numbers and batch identifiers. Track and trace is often a requirement when manufacturing semiconductor devices for highly regulated industries like aerospace or medical. Quality control and compliance to the specifications they demand are of the utmost importance for semiconductor manufacturers. 
Quality inspections and testing of semiconductor chips are performed by Automated Testing Equipment (ATE). The results coming from these systems can be monitored from the MES. An alarm can be triggered if a manufacturing defect is detected, notifying key personnel to take necessary steps. The MES is also capable of defect tracking and non-conformance management. To learn more about ATEs, read Semiconductor Chip Testing Using Automated Test Equipment.

Quality Control And Product Genealogy | Inquivix Technologies

Tracking Equipment Usage

The current status of all equipment can be monitored using the MES. The status could be up (currently processing), down (unable to process), or idle (able to process but is currently not processing). Machines that normally take a long to process create bottlenecks. The MES can reveal these bottlenecks, showing factory workers where they have to ensure no breakdowns can occur since hardware failure at these points has the potential to cause massive delays.  

An anomaly in the processing time for a specific step in the production could indicate the equipment that has issues. A drastic change could be due to a malfunction and a gradual change could indicate the equipment is drifting away from its initial calibration. Throughput or the number of units that can be processed by equipment can also be recorded.

Maintenance Management

Instead of arbitrarily assigning maintenance for equipment, the MES can track equipment usage in real-time, and based on past history, predict when it should be taken out of production for maintenance before it breaks down. The equipment used in semiconductor manufacturing is sophisticated and costly, and by taking preventative measures like predictive maintenance, manufacturers can reduce downtime and repair costs.

Document Management

Work instructions to the production team on shift, product specifications, drawings, batch records, and various other documents like standard operating procedures can be distributed through the MES. This means that all personnel at the factory can access these documents when they need them, minimizing miscommunication and paperwork.

Reporting And Performance Analysis

The MES can keep track of important manufacturing metrics like cycle time (total manufacturing time for a product), yield (the number of units completed versus the number of units that entered production), and scrap rate (the percentage of units that were scrapped). These are all important to the business side of manufacturing, allowing semiconductor companies to understand costs, and where efficiency needs to be improved. 

The operational reporting provided by an MES can give factory owners an idea of what’s currently happening at their facility. This includes the status of work orders, equipment, and various other things we have mentioned thus far. 

Historical reporting is different and can reveal manufacturing trends. The yield of a production line over time, equipment maintenance history, and quality deviation of products can give a wealth of information, revealing if the conditions in the factory have been improving. Managers can use these insights to understand if new process improvements have an impact on product quality. They can also understand how a new product introduction into the line is performing and find ways to optimize manufacturing to improve efficiency.

MES Standards

MES Standards | Inquivix Technologies

The  International Society of Automation (ISA) developed a standard called ISA-95 which defines the terminology used for MES and helps differentiate it from other software tools like enterprise planning, logistics, and process control systems used by manufacturing companies. This allows for better communication between manufacturers that use MES systems and those involved in their development.  

The ISA-95 places the MES between Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software and other process control systems at level 04 of the hierarchy. Modern MES doesn’t have to be separated and can be easily integrated with ERP systems. A business with tight integration of these systems can obtain data on everything from procurement to manufacturing, supply chain logistics, and more.

Improving The Semiconductor Manufacturing Process With Smart Technology

Many industries are now moving towards ‘Industry 4.0’ methods, and smart manufacturing is the concept that many are focused on. Semiconductor manufacturing is heading in the same direction and the MES they utilize are evolving with them. 

There is potential for automation capabilities where devices and sensors deployed in the factory can share data with each other, interacting with minimal human presence required. Technology like machine learning enables big data analysis of the vast amounts of information that are gathered in real-time. These systems will be able to figure out where workflows can be improved, and wastage can be reduced.

Advanced simulations can show engineers how new processes or technology can be reliably introduced without risking normal production. These improved workflows can then be introduced to production lines not just in one factory but can be deployed to multiple facilities no matter where they are located.  
To learn more about why the integration of smart manufacturing methods is a great investment for semiconductor manufacturers, read How Smart Manufacturing in the Semiconductor Industry Will Make a Difference. To learn more about semiconductor manufacturing, the latest products that are driving demand, and the industry news, check out Inquivix Technologies.


What Is An MES?

MES stands for ‘Manufacturing Execution System’ and is the software responsible for monitoring and controlling the entire manufacturing cycle of a factory. Quality control, cost reduction, and efficient resource utilization are just some of its functions.

What Is The Difference Between An MES And ERP System?

MES stands for ‘Manufacturing Execution System’ and is the software responsible for monitoring and controlling the entire manufacturing cycle of a factory. Quality control, cost reduction, and efficient resource utilization are just some of its functions.

What Are The Functions Of An MES?

An MES can do manufacturing process control, dispatching, quality control, labor management, maintenance management, and track equipment usage and performance. It can also support many types of reporting to help manufacturers understand what’s happening on the factory floor at present and historical trends.

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