Samsung Semiconductors is a leader in semiconductor electronics worldwide. Samsung Semiconductors is a leader in electronic components like DRAM and SRAM memory chips, flash memory components, thin-film transistor liquid crystal display (TFT-LCD) panels and screens, and system LSI products (digital technologies for home and mobile applications). These components are used in a wide range of applications, including computers, consumer electronics, and industrial equipment. Samsung semiconductors is part of Samsung Group, a Korea based international conglomerate.
Samsung Group is an international conglomerate corporation headquartered in Seoul, South Korea. Samsung is involved in a wide range of businesses, from consumer electronics to petrochemicals, from advertising to life insurance. Business is divided into various industry groups including electronics industries, machinery & heavy industries, chemical industries, financial services and other affiliated companies.
Quality plays a very important role in a business like semiconductors, where, even a minor quality issue could potentially cause a lot of damage to reputation and the products that use this product.
This study focuses on the Quality management program at Samsung, its certifications, its policy etc. The study also investigates the quality management system at Samsung through an audit.
Company Background (http://www.samsung.com/global/business/semiconductor/aboutus/AboutUs_Profile.html)
Founded in 1974, Samsung’s Semiconductor Business started with the acquisition of Hankook Semiconductor. Initially the operations started as developing and mass producing ICs and peripherals for consumer electronics like LED watches, televisions, audio players and microwave ovens. In 1983, Samsung’s evolved into a leading semiconductor manufacturer with the successful development of the 64Kb DRAM. Subsequently Samsung opened the Giheung Semiconductor Complex, its first memory fabrication facility in 1984. Since then, Samsung has been consolidating its position in the semiconductor segment. Samsung has been the market leader in Memory since 1993, and in NAND Flash since 2003. In 2001, the company expanded its System LSI Division and the opened it’s SoC Research Lab and signalled its long term commitment to logic and analog chip development.
Samsung defines its vision as “Creating the Future: There is no waiting for the future – it must be created. Accomplishments must be recognized, but we must quickly move on to new frontiers in developing even better and more innovative products and technologies. We must be nomads in the sense that we are never satisfied with past successes and accomplishments, but are continuously searching for new areas to explore and develop”
The business is divided into three major divisions:
Memory: The Memory division designs and manufactures integrated circuits for storing digital information. Since the time it developed world’s first 64 GB NAND chip in 1992, Samsung Electronics has maintained its leading position in NAND flash memory. Samsung was the first company to apply 40nm-class process technology in mass producing DRAM. It has also diversified into fast growing segments like mobile devices and game consoles, with its proprietary OneDRAMâ„¢, OneNANDâ„¢ and Flex-OneNANDâ„¢, and distinctive MCP (multi-chip package) solutions. Samsung also pioneered the development of Solid State Drives (SSDs), when it introduced its first 32GB SSD (PATA) in March 2006, followed by a 64GB SSD in June 2007, 128GB SATA II SSD in July 2008 and 256GB MLC-based SSD began in November, 2008.
System LSI: The System LSI division designs and manufactures application specific devices, micro components, logic ICs, analog ICs and image sensors. The division caters to 3 major market areas – mobile solutions, home & media solutions, and ASIC & foundry services. Intends to focus on five strategic products areas – DDI, CIS, mobile application processor, chip card IC and media player IC.
Storage: The Storage division designs and manufactures hard drives. These devices are used in notebook PCs, desktop PCs and consumer electronics. The smaller sized hard disk drives like the 1.8″ drive are used in personal media players, cell phones, PDAs, navigators, MP3s and other mobile applications. Also has a line up of high capacity external hard disk drives.
The Semiconductor Business has 15 production facilities around the world. It has fabs in Giheung and Hwaseong, Korea (near Seoul), and in Austin, Texas, while the IC assembly plants are in Onyang, Korea and Suzhou, China. Also operates 10 hard-drive manufacturing facilities in Gumi, Korea, which boasts of highest quality production, with automation that enables it to rapidly adapt to future technologies.
R&D and Patents: Samsung focus on R&D is emphasised by the fact that, of the company’s 33,500 employees based in Korea, over 30% have work duties dedicated to research and development. The company also has research centers in San Jose (California), Suzhou (China), Yokohama (Japan), Bangalore (India), and Tel Aviv (Israel). The company has invested US$6.3 bn in R&D in 2008 which is around 9.5% of its annual sales. Samsung Electronics has registered 3,515 US patents in 2008, a 29.0% increase over 2007.
Quality is defined as “a measure of the level of excellence or standard of a product or service.” Quality management is defined as “ongoing effort to provide services that meet or exceed customer expectations through a structured, systematic process for creating organizational participation in planning and implementing quality improvements.” (gapproject.org, 2009)
Quality management has three main components: quality control, quality assurance and quality improvement. It is focused not only on product quality, but also the means to achieve it and therefore uses quality assurance and control of processes as well as products to achieve more consistent quality.
Quality control: Quality control is defined as a process employed to ensure a certain level of quality in a product or service. This might include any actions that a business might feel necessary to provide to ensure control and verification of certain characteristics of a product or service. The aim of quality control is to ensure that the products, services, or processes provided meet specific requirements and are dependable, satisfactory, and correct. The task assigned to a quality control team in an organization is to identify products or services that do not meet a specific standard of quality and act accordingly. Quality control sometimes is used not only for products, services, and processes, but also for people. These are specially used in service oriented industries. Sometimes quality control is mistaken for quality assurance. The difference is that while Quality control is concerned with the product, Quality assurance is process-oriented. (http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-quality-control.htm)
Quality Assurance: Quality assurance (QA) is the process which involves the testing of products or services to make sure that they meet or exceed quality expectations. It refers to a series of tasks that involve systematic monitoring and evaluation of the various aspects of a project, service, or facility to ensure that standards of quality are consistently met. It generally involves guidelines on the quality of raw materials, assemblies, products and components; services related to production; and management, production and inspection processes.
Quality Improvement: Quality improvement is defined by ISO as a “part of quality management focused on increasing the ability to fulfil quality requirements.”
The International Standards Organization is a certifying authority on quality management. The family of ISO 9000 standards represents an international consensus on good quality management practices, consisting of standards and guidelines relating to quality management systems and related supporting standards. The ISO 9000:2000 and ISO 9000:2008 series are based on eight quality management principles. These include Customer focus, Leadership, Involvement of people, Process approach, System approach to management, continual improvement, Factual approach to decision making and Mutually beneficial supplier relationships. (http://www.iso.org/iso/iso_catalogue/management_standards/iso_9000_iso_14000/qmp.htm)
Quality at Samsung
Samsung electronics defines its Quality Policy as “It is our Quality Policy that we deliver on the basis of an effective quality system the best products and services that exceed our customers’ requirements and expectations.”
Samsung Electronics has been the leader in the industry in quality standards since 1993, when the company first received top-level (ISO9001) certification of its plants in Korea. Over the years all domestic and overseas semiconductor sites of Samsung are ISO 9000 certified. The System LSI business unit also acquired the QS 9000 in 1999. Samsung certification milestones include:
1993: ISO9001 for semiconductor plants in Korea
1999: ISO 9002 for semiconductor plants in Austin, Texas; and Suzhou, China
1999: QS9000 for System LSI plant in Korea
2001: TL9000 certification of all semiconductor plants in Korea
2002: QS9000 certification for memory business, assembly and test plants in Korea
2004: ISO/TS16949 certification for Memory & System LSI division, assembly and test plants in Korea
2005: ISO/TS16949 certification for semiconductor plants in Suzhou, China
2008 ISO/TS16949 certification for semiconductor plants in Austin, Texas
Samsung implements continuous improvement through a closed loop methodology consisting of a selection of critical parameters, evaluation of the measurement system, monitoring of critical parameters, process capability improvement, and reaction plan. The main objective of this is minimizing the variation around the target.
Activities: At its facilities, Samsung uses the following techniques for Real Time Monitoring for Special Causes:
Interlock System: Samsung continuously monitors products and processes and controls them by automatic interlock systems throughout the manufacturing process
In the FAB, it has implemented a three stage protection system: Process Recipe Interlock (Incoming Materials and Recipe Check), Equipment Parameter Interlock and Process Output Interlock
In the wafer sort process, wafers are statistically monitored based on various test results and yields before assembly
Statistical Process Control (SPC) and Advanced Process Control (APC): Samsung has implemented an advanced SPC system suitable for semiconductor manufacturing processes. The control is used for random trend monitoring. It includes short run, small change detecting, particle, and multivariate SPC modules.
The APC system includes real time control and run-to-run control, which is successfully used for controlling deterministic process behaviours
For common cause activities which are implemented in company-wide Improvement Projects, Samsung uses the following techniques:
FAB Equivalency – “Copy Intelligently”: Implements Samsung Equivalence Test program, which checks the equivalency and non-equivalency of measurement data of output characteristics from “Copy Intelligently” activities
The purpose of this activity is to lead it to standardize the output characteristics between lines or equipment
Statistical Post Processing: implements statistical analysis on test results at wafer sort. This not only optimizes test effort but also gives useful information such as potential reliability and yield. With statistical approach, wafers or dies with latent risks are effectively screened and dies are binned according to potential risks
Virtual Metrology and Modelling: Implements virtual metrology to construct predictive models that can forecast the electrical/physical parameters of wafers based on data collected from processing equipment. Using this process can eliminate actual measurements from wafers. This combined with the APC leads to a shift from “Lot-to-Lot control” to “Wafer-to-Wafer control”
Samsung feels that employs are very important in quality management. In order to equip employees with the required skills for maintaining quality, Samsung organises Quality Education & Training courses. These courses are targeted towards improvement of employees’ quality awareness and statistical skills. It offers employees multiple chances to apply for an examination of international Quality & Reliability Engineer license. It also encourages its employees to apply for CRE(Certified Reliability Engineer) & CQE(Certified Quality Engineer) and several other ASQ Certifications. In the year 2009, 47 engineers obtained CRE licenses and 55 obtained CQE licenses at Samsung.
Quality audit is defined as a review in which a designated auditor analyzes and verifies various records and processes relating to a company’s quality program. The objective of a quality audit is to determine whether the company under observation is complying with its quality program or whether it needs to make any amendments to its business practices. Sometimes companies also perform a quality audit in order to know whether it is complying with certain quality standards, like those set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9000.
Usually, a quality audit is generally conducted by an independent auditor or internal team of auditors who have expertise in the area. Typically in a quality audit, involves the following steps. The designated auditor will first formulates a system audit plan, which usually details the timeline, scope, location of the audit, any written documentation that will need to be reviewed as well as any interviews that will need to be conducted. Then he meets with individuals at the company who are responsible for the company’s quality program, examines any applicable records and checks if the company’s businesses practices align with its written quality program. If the investigation suggests that the company is not following the written quality program, he would document the information accordingly. The report generally contains a summary of all of the evidence that was reviewed.
Audits are of three types. Third Party Audits, which are done by an independent and recognised audit organisation, second party audit, which are conducted by those people who have a high interest in the final outcome of the audit and first party audits, which are done only internally.
Quality Audit at Samsung (http://www.samsung.com/global/business/semiconductor/support/qualitymanagement/support_QualityDocumentSystem_Audit.html) (Not rephrased as this is actual policy)
SBQA (SAMSUNG Semiconductor Business Quality Award): It is the system under which the audit is conducted for all business units and sites and for each unit of the team/division/line units. The audit is conducted once a year to ensure the provision of information at the quality management level and is mandated to improve all related areas based on the customer satisfaction index of each unit in each development and production area.
Corporate Theme Audit: It is the system under which the audit is conducted at the corporate level to diagnose and improve weak areas at the corporate level and to prevent the occurrence of accidents.
Supplier Audit: It is the system under which the audit is conducted to ensure improvement by providing new certification, the ratings, and the incentives for suppliers.
Audit Information Control Infrastructure: The Company conducts an integrated control of all information generated from the establishment stage of the audit plan until it is closed upon its conclusion.
The following are the steps followed in conducting the audit. First task was to plan the audit. Then this followed by designing a questionnaire. The questionnaire used in my audit is as detailed in Appendix-1. The next step was to perform the audit. It involved taking permission from different people to help in taking part in the audit. This step also involves being familiar with the questions on the questionnaire so that one can be more efficient in collecting the evidence in this regard. I have audited the company by exchanging views some people who are involved in the Samsung quality monitoring process. Also I have used inputs from various employees and customers through a series of questions posed to them about their knowledge of quality at Samsung. The next part after conducting the audit, I summarised all the audit results, so that it gave me more information as to how things were working and also gave me an opportunity to see if I have completed gathering information on all the questions on the checklist. The most important step was next-evaluating the audit which was conducted. This involved checking if the organization met all the categories which are mentioned in the checklist and how far the quality is maintained with regards to the standards. Then the final task was to make a report based on the quality audit. The report also involved making suggestion that it could be implemented by Somerfield in improving the services and quality of the products.
The audit conducted on Samsung revealed a lot of insights into the company. During the audit I found that Samsung has a wide variety of products which were sourced from many different countries. I have also found various details about the quality management systems at Samsung, the various quality certifications held by Samsung. I have audited the company by exchanging views some people who are involved in the Samsung quality monitoring process. Also I have used inputs from various employees and customers through a series of questions posed to them about their knowledge of quality at Samsung. Through my audit, I have realised that Samsung follows most of the quality management systems. The areas where i found that Samsung lacked was that the quality policies are not effectively communicated to employees and that the policy for quality is more centralized. I make the following recommendations based on the above interactions.
An open book policy, especially with its employees and small customers, is necessary to be maintained by Samsung if it has to keep its tag of quality to be upheld. The company needs to allow its consumers to access its quality records so that the consumers are assured of the goods that they are receiving.
Policies towards the environment have to be reviewed regularly. This has to be done so that environmental standards are met. Environmental issues are becoming issues of high importance and Samsung needs to be a part of the policies that involve making the world a better place because of its policies. Although Samsung is a part of the environment group, it has to develop more policies towards setting up more stringent rules to be more environments friendly.
Staff forums and groups should also concentrate on revealing the results of the audits. This transparency will help to create a better environment to help work well. The staff would be motivated if there are some positive points in the audit and they will be motivated to work better on the not so good points.
Major operating groups do not have separate policies. This is disadvantageous as some operating groups need to have special policies that cover the whole range of work that needs to be checked upon. Some groups may not fit into a frame work that the policy of the Samsung has to offer and hence it is essential to make made to order policies.