Semikron Elektronik GmbH & Co. KG is a leading manufacturer of power semiconductors. Semikron must cope with the conflicting business pressures typical of the semiconductor industry: intense price pressure in all market segments and technological advances. Ever shorter development and product life cycles require a high degree of innovation with consistently high quality requirements. Semikron must master all aspects of innovation management as well as the implementation of innovations in competitive products.
Semikron needed archiving of all quality data, online searchable availability of this data and the ability to trace material movement and delivery information all along the production chain
Exasol’s analytics database works in combination with research software from Solvtec and Zeitsprung
Uniform measurement and process data archive, creation of a seamless chain of proof for the customer and extensive time savings for typical standard analyses
EXASOL was the only database provider from whom sufficiently short response times could be expected for the given data volumes within the project budget and this confirmed in a proof of concept. Our evaluation times for standard analyses could in part be reduced from several days to just a few hours a month.
share of global market
measurement systems connected to Exasol
The third generation family-run business was established in 1951 and has its head office in Nuremberg, Germany. A workforce of 3,900 manufactures and develops both standard power semiconductor components and custom-specific systems and solutions such as transistors, control systems, special cooling solutions for systems, condensers and application-specific controller software at ten production sites and 36 companies around the globe. According to IMS, a primary market research institute, the electronics specialist is the market leader in the field of diode and thyristor semiconductor modules, holding a 30% share of the global market.
The production process In a typical production process in the semiconductor industry, special chips are mounted on so-called ceramic base plates (Direct Copper Bonding – DCB). These are built into Intelligent Power Modules (IPMs) into which the control electronics or sensors have in part already been integrated. IPMs in turn form the basis for the manufacture of compact power electronic systems. Power semiconductors are primarily used in industrial drive systems, wind and solar plants, and hybrid and electric vehicles as well as power supplies.
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Vast quantities of measurement and process data, material movements and delivery information accrue during the semiconductor product manufacturing process. In 2007, Semikron recognised the need to establish a flexible system solution for its special field of measurement data archiving to ensure efficient storage, analysis and traceability of its measurement data. Concrete customer requirements were also made of data archiving within the scope of new contracts.
The project had three major aims: to archive all quality-relevant key performance indicators on the products sold during the prescribed storage periods, to ensure the online availability of all archived data according to the contract and article number with searches according to individual characteristics, and to provide information on material movements and deliveries for seamless traceability throughout the production chain.
Efficient measurement data archiving with extended data management and faster data analysis would greatly optimise Semikron’s business processes.
Semikron decided on the EXASolution database due to its high performance. Given that providers of the systems standard on the market at the time (e.g. Manufacturing Execution System – MES) could not ensure online availability of the required volume of data, Semikron sought an alternative that would ensure the traceability of the products sold within the prescribed storage periods. Ad hoc analyses of searches for individual characteristics and articles should also be possible. Moreover, a variety of functions would have had to be purchased and used within the MES environment that would not have been necessary for Semikron at the time. All in all, the total cost of ownership (TCO) should remain reasonable, and simple integration of the system into the existing infrastructure must also be possible.
When EXASOL first contacted Semikron in December 2008, it had already been determined that clear optimisation of the process chain was possible with use of the EXASolution high-performance database based on Loading...in-memory technology. A proof of concept, loaded with real data from one year, showed the desired improvements in performance directly. This involved first entering test data from one system from each of the production areas in Germany into an entirely modelled data model. The query times were analysed with different data volumes and cluster configurations. On the one hand, one requirement made of the EXASolution database solution was that it could grow without any problem with the continuously growing volume of data, i.e. was freely scalable and enabled multi-layered ad hoc analyses. On the other, the specialist departments – each of which has individual requirements of their data analyses – should be given different options to analyse data. A relational data model was also required for the planned online searching of measurement data that was able to unpack data and also standardise it at the same time. Semikron developed its own loading process for this, which allows raw data from the most varied of production systems to be compiled, standardised, zipped and ultimately made available for the central server in Germany. In parallel, the companies Solvtec and Zeitsprung – specialists in the field of process and quality management – developed software for export of the data and the provision of special analysis software such as QS-STAT.
A contract was signed between EXASOL and Semikron at the start of 2010. Upon conclusion of the test phase, Semikron connected one system per production area to the live system. Over the course of 2010, all measurement systems in Germany and Slovakia were then connected in a process that took around one year. Subsequent systems then followed in the course of standard operations after conclusion of the project.
To date, five international locations and 60 measurement systems have been connected to the EXASolution high-performance database. When power semiconductor modules and systems are now manufactured in Slovakia, for example, input plug-ins ensure in a first step that the incoming heterogeneous measurement and process data is standardised and stored on an international server. In a second step, this standardised data is transferred from the international server to a central server in Germany, unpacked and passed on to the EXASolution database. The data is available here at all times for analytical queries and reports. The system at Semikron comprises 3+1 stand-alone computers (nodes), which are linked in a cluster. The cluster architecture allows for the solution’s performance to be significantly increased compared to standard database systems. The data in the cluster is automatically distributed, allowing for optimal use of all hardware resources during calculations. In the process, EXASolution saves all information for this in columns rather than in rows. The database system can determine independently how the ideal system configuration looks.
Two options are available for the analyses that Semikron primarily requires for quality assurance and control of its production processes: on the one hand, reports can be retrieved safely and flexibly via Solvtec’s client. However, usage formats that cannot directly access the EXASolution database are also used in industrial production, e.g. typical analysis programs such as QS-STAT. Special output plug-ins had to be developed by Zeitsprung for these applications. Zeitsprung specialises in information platforms in the production environment. The plug-ins are able to control special formats in such a way that they export data segments from the database as files and in turn use these as the basis for the desired analyses.
The benefits for Semikron
By using EXASolution, the manufacturer has successfully created a uniform measurement and process data archive. Production and quality key performance indicators for the power semiconductor components sold can be traced within the prescribed storage periods. Ad hoc preventive analyses (statistical process control) on the measurement data obtained are now possible at any time without any information loss.
The specialist departments, such as the process and quality engineers in production, benefit from being independent from other departments and having the ability to create standard and ad hoc reports at the click of a button. Moreover, it is now possible to call up proof of production with all data available on one single component. EXASOL’s high-performance database is flexibly expandable and can evolve with the company’s developing requirements. Semikron will reap the benefits of this in the medium term when further process systems and locations are connected to increase the process knowledge within the database.
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