As manufacturing relies on increasingly more complex equipment, the management of the recipes that the equipment will use for a certain process becomes increasingly important. Not only it’s a basic requirement to ensure that the right recipe is used for the right process, but also the recipe information is a key enabler for performance and efficiency improvement.
A recipe can be defined as a program and/or a set of parameters that contains the necessary information for a particular equipment to execute a certain process. Manufacturers today need to cope with a big diversity of equipment (different generations, different suppliers, different automation capabilities) and a huge variety of processes that can run on the same equipment. Furthermore, to stay competitive, manufacturers must continuously introduce new products and improve existing processes.
Recipe programs are very equipment and process specific. Several equipment vendors provide specific recipe editors or recipe software development kits (SDKs) to allow the equipment and process engineers to create and modify the recipe programs. This presents the first challenge, that is, how to centralize the storage and how to identify the “golden” recipe. It’s necessary to ensure that the equipment does not use an outdated or locally modified recipe.
The second challenge is, that organizations want to have control about who can modify which recipe, and they want to have full history about recipe changes. In addition, organizations want to easily visualize the changes between versions and between different recipes.
A third challenge is how to contain the proliferation of the number recipes. A good strategy is to parameterize the recipes and also to create modular re-usable recipes. For example, if a test is exactly the same, but must be performed at different temperatures, the temperature can be made as a parameter of the test and the test itself can be made available as a re-usable module.
A fourth challenge involves the resolution of the right recipe to be used to process a particular lot or batch at certain process step at specific equipment. The recipe to be used may depend on a certain number of factors, namely the product and the equipment. Ideally, it should be possible to use a flexible context resolution mechanism to resolve the recipe.
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A fifth challenge arises as some parameters may be dynamic and have to be calculated on-the-fly as they may depend on some lot or equipment properties; or they may rely on a type of Advanced Process Control (APC) feed-forward or feedback mechanism.
Challenges fourth and fifth can be combined in the challenge number six for the case where the manufacturer wants to run some experiments that consist of small recipe variations with the purpose of improving performance or efficiency. It must be possible to have an experiment for one or more lots to override the default recipe or recipe parameter to be used, and this recipe resolution must work seamlessly and transparently for the manufacturing operations.
Challenge number seven is to ensure that the recipe that has been resolved together with its dynamic parameter values are actually set and used by the equipment as intended. In this case, automation – using equipment integration – goes a long way in making sure that there are no errors and that the equipment setup and configuration is carried out quickly.
The next challenge, challenge number eight, consists in ensuring that the actual recipe and recipe parameters, as used, are stored with all the necessary context information for traceability and analysis purposes.
Challenge number nine consists in combining traceability data with equipment data, and then to apply statistical methods, data mining or machine learning in order to improve process yield, performance or efficiency.
Challenge ten, the last and the most challenging of all, is to be able to address all challenges mentioned above in an integrated, consistent and continuous way, in order to systematically improve quality, performance and innovation.
Even though a Recipe Management System (RMS) is a key enabler for overcoming the challenges described in this post, only with a fully integrated Manufacturing Execution System (MES) that includes in addition: recipe resolution, material traceability, experiment management and equipment integration; will manufacturers be able to rise up and meet all the challenges head-on.