‘It’s cool working at ASML if you got supply chain DNA’

[This article is brought to you by ASML]

The ASML supply chain seems to be without boundaries. The company, one of the Dutch stars within the field of discrete manufacturing, offers supply chain professionals a chance to work every day on new advanced models that are highly needed to maintain its position as market leader. `The smaller the chip structures, the more complex our machines are. We will keep on developing new products and techniques, despite the big logistics challenges we meet”, says Harold Bol, Director Supply Chain Planning and Configuration Management.

The supply chain of the wafer stepper manufacturer as a whole is impressive. The ASML product pipeline consists of 2,5 billion euro worth on inventory. The yearly investment in logistics infrastructural tools, such as IT-systems to improve planning and forecasting, is also significant. These investments are though, according to Harold Bol, not the main successor behind the achievements of the company. The Director Supply Chain Planning and Configuration Management states that for the company all that matters is about how ASML is dealing with challenges. And the biggest of those challenges are to be found in improving the speeds and flexibility of the company’ supply chain. Bol: “We will always find a way to make a business case, to speed up something or be smarter. But what we need to create is value for our customers. Our machines should allow them to produce faster and energy efficient chips that helps them to stay or become market leader with their products.”

Supply chain challenges

The smaller and faster the chips, the bigger and more complex the ASML-machines are. “Some of them are of the seize of a large living room”, says Bol. The cost of the machines, which are expensive, makes the aspect of uptime very important. The cost of machine downtime for customers, such as Samsung or TSMC can be up to 72.000 euro per hour. The allowed monthly downtime for ASML, according to SLA’s, is no more as a maximum of 20 minutes.  “To meet those demands we strongly rely on the talent of our technical and supply chain experts. We are in a continuous search for people that like to deal with these challenges.”

Bol describes the ASML supply chain as a dynamic one. “But in reality, all company activities, from sales to production and logistics, are subject to changes, every day. So, if you have the right supply chain DNA, you will probably consider working over here as cool.” ASML is a fast growing organization and the growth might even speed up as a result of the development of the  revolutionary EUV-technique. “It’s a challenge to be in the centre of all these developments. Think about it, who thought to be using his mobile phone to watch movies ten years ago? And we need to make sure we stay ahead of those trends.” The ASML supply chain professionals are using sophisticated models to plan all parts of the production and assembly processes.

Worldwide production and assembly

ASML has outsourced close to ninety percent of the machine parts production process. But the intellectual part of the work, managing the processes, the assembly and adapting the products according to customer demand, is still being done in Veldhoven, The Netherlands. In addition ASML owns several sites in Asia and the United States. The Roadmap 2018 project is leading for all changes concerning planning and improvement issues. It is in fact the forecasting document the company uses to prepare itself for the near future. “The closer we get to 2018, the more details we will add to our plans.”

Roadmap 2018 is a project that digs deep into all aspects of ASML, according to Bol. That should not be a surprise though, because focusing on the details is what he and his supply chain colleagues are doing every day. The pressure to keep pushing forward is high. But ASML is offering new employees all support and training they need. “We always show our factory to new colleagues, which certainly inspires them. It’s almost science fiction what they will see. But afterwards we expect them to focus on daily challenges and help ASML improve.”

Experts need to keep supply chain fast and flexible

The main challenge that the supply chain professionals of ASML have to deal with, is to organize the chain in a way it stays flexible to fulfil customer demand. “Lead times are reasonably long, but that is of no concern to our customers, because they expect us to deliver on time. They are focusing on designing and selling new electronic products, such as mobile phones, and our machines play a key role in their development processes. This process can never be considered as standard because we will always meet new challenges in reaching that customer goal.”

>> Find out more: asml.com/scm