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ASML

Troubleshooting from A to Z

ASML is one of the top players in the field of lithography systems for semiconductor manufacturers. The company designs, develops, builds and maintains the machines with which its customers retain leadership in a highly competitive market. To provide the best service for the customers, the best customer support is essential.

ASML is strongly committed to providing service close to the customer. That means engineers working on three continents at a high level of knowledge  and a uniform approach to faults, sometimes even from their own office on the customer's site. Jean Houbiers, manager of the Training & Knowledge Management Department, explains how he achieves that: "Our goal is to train our engineers and always give them a complete knowledge base. In this way, we bring the effectiveness of our people to a higher level and provide a constantly improving service to our customers." ASML uses a product-training package, consisting of hands-on training courses, supported with online theory and video.

Experience

Jean: "Our new engineers first have four weeks of intensive training at one of our training centres. After that, they are aware of the complexity of the installations, and they can contribute to solving situations, with the aid of the documentation that they always carry with them . However, we build up further skills. When designing the plants, maintainability is an important criterion and so we have therefore a list of the necessary engineering skills for each system. After the training course, they are partly trained for it and the rest they learn under the guidance of experienced engineers in the field." In that way, the engineers' skills grow quickly. Since the best people are deployed on field training, it can happen that engineers from Taiwan spend some time in China to train their colleagues. That principle is also used for experienced colleagues working on new installations.

Time to market

ASML's customers must be able to react quickly to new trends in the semiconductor industry. The time in which new machines develop from the design stage to the final product, the 'time to market', must therefore be short. In the first series of a new product, the experience of the engineers in the field is used for product improvements and training. The steep learning curve matches the rate at which ASML’s customers want to use their new machine.  There are training machines for each product line. For new products they are in Veldhoven, for existing product lines they are close to the majority of customers, in Taiwan.

Structure

To learn from faults and to make the best and uniform use of that knowledge, an unambiguous approach to troubleshooting is essential. By analysing the problem one step at a time, even if the solution seems obvious, cases can be described in a crystal clear way. Those cases can then be shared and sometimes even put on other platforms. Jean: “CoThink helped us a lot in rolling out this approach for our engineers. They have made it clear once again that solving a problem is a team effort where every player can contribute his piece to the roadmap. Conversely, this means that on the roadmap from A to Z, someone can step in halfway to deploy his or her expertise, with the assurance that the steps up to that point have already been taken." As Jean says, this approach helps everyone to be successful.

One of the men working on the rollout of this approach is John Jeuken. He noted some initial scepticism among the experienced engineers. "I have been working that way for years," was a frequently heard comment. John: "But this way often sat in people's heads and not in the system. Furthermore, experience can lead to short-cuts being taken and some steps might be skipped."  The scepticism has now given way to recognition and appreciation. John noted that attention being given to a structured way of solving faults has already had an effect. This is true in other departments as well. John: "We even got requests from our colleagues in Manufacturing and Development to attend the training course. That's another signal that we are doing well." The practical approach of CoThink working together with our new and experienced colleagues on the skills needed to address problems in an unambiguous manner is working. The approach is supported by senior management and can count on a growing number of ambassadors. The 'champions' , who work on problem solving with experience and a structured approach,  train other colleagues in their turn. With all this available experience, we are now working to improve the registration system for solutions and cases.

John: "This way of solving structured problems is called Innovative Trouble Shooting or ITS by CoThink. As we have made the method more specific to ASML, we have it renamed it ASML Troubleshooting."

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