Chief Information Officer, Hemlock Semiconductor
Hemlock Semiconductor (HSC) is the leading provider of hyper-pure polycrystalline silicon used in the manufacture of semiconductor devices, solar cells and modules. HSC delivers polysilicon with an ultra-low carbon footprint to manufacturers around the world, who, in turn, use it to produce the silicon substrates used in solar panels and high-tech electronics, including cell phones, tablets, smartwatches, and Internet of Things devices, and computers.
Everyone who uses modern methods to stay connected depends on quality polysilicon, which is the primary raw material for the semiconductor and solar industries and is used to build a wide range of devices that people use every day, including smartwatches, Internet of Things devices, solar cells, and many others.
Manufacturing raw polysilicon material is fraught with obstacles. Ensuring consistent near-perfect purity levels, taking steps to reduce energy consumption, and keeping costs low due to the commoditized nature of the product meant Hemlock Semiconductor (HSC) needed to take on a certain amount of risk.
HSC was looking to control costs and maximize output from their production, and wanted to accurately explore methods to increase their energy conservation throughout polysilicon production. However, finding methods to optimize polysilicon production can be complex because most customers require purity levels at 99.999999999%. The slightest variability in process could lead to greater impurity levels and lower yields. With this miniscule room for error, HSC required extremely precise, cross-operational data that would reveal where the company could remove inefficiencies to save on energy and costs. A major obstacle toward this goal was HSC’s previous infrastructure — which kept data in silos — and the company’s legacy systems which lagged behind modern data requirements.
HSC needed a way to remove the silos between their data and get a holistic view of their operations. They also needed to efficiently share that data across departments. Only then could they identify potential cost saving and energy conservation methods.
To reach these goals, HSC leveraged TIBCO’s Spotfire platform which is equipped to connect multiple data sources. This allowed HSC to remove the silos stemming from the previous data infrastructure. HSC could now analyze current processes in real time, helping the company track production progress, potential anomalies and energy output. HSC also used Spotfire to test out what-if scenarios through the platform’s predictive AI capabilities, allowing HSC to try potential optimization methods without unnecessarily interrupting a complex production process. With the TIBCO platform, HSC is able to consistently produce the highest quality, most reliable polysilicon and has positioned it as the partner of choice globally.
Now that HSC could more effectively leverage their data, the company was able to take multiple steps towards their cost savings and energy conservation goals.
For example, HSC implemented a peak power management program. The program leveraged Spotfire’s data science to both visualize and optimize the company’s performance. Now, peak power management ensures HSC's assets don’t consume an excess of energy during off-peak hours. This helps the company lower their demand on the electric grid even when consumption is highest.
HSC was also able to address their cost savings goals. To remain a leader in the global polysilicon market, HSC has to maintain overall cost competitiveness and profitability. Due to the commoditized status of polysilicon, there is little flexibility in how HSC can price their products and services. By focusing on reducing manufacturing costs, HSC was able to increase its profitability and maintain market share.
Through Spotfire, HSC could create custom data visualizations that allow multiple stakeholders to view the most granular aspects of the manufacturing process. This allows for near real-time responses to process inefficiencies or anomalies. Through an elimination of unnecessary steps in the production process, HSC saves on manufacturing resources, and thereby minimizing overall manufacturing costs.
HSC has increased their capacity to view their data and make decisions that will allow them to be competitive. HSC can also now connect its systems, processes, machinery and more where data silos once existed. Prior to HSC’s introduction to TIBCO's solutions, HSC was stuck using spreadsheet-based methods for data compilation. This limited the polysilicon producer to data analysis that went back only as far as 90 days. Now, HSC can consume and analyze multiple years of data. For instance, HSC can now process 6 million data records instead of the previous capabilities which were capped at 5,000 or 6,000 data records.
HSC also made great strides in both energy conservation and cost savings. Through its peak power management program HSC’s electric utility can better manage its total energy demand. Also, the program led to HSC saving $300,000 per month.
HSC plans to expand its improvements in energy efficiency and cost savings through continued performance tracking. With their new approach to data analysis, HSC plans to leverage both internal and external information to determine potential new business models that can lead to greater operational efficiencies.
TIBCO’s Spotfire is a fully governed, scalable analytics platform that makes it easy for organizations to take action for smarter, data-driven decision-making from any kind of data. Spotfire’s features, including data visualization, data wrangling capabilities, and embedded data science, allow teams to explore both scientific and business data to gain quick insights and understand key themes.
Polysilicon is facing larger commoditization which makes it imperative that HSC find ways to increase cost savings that isn’t primarily focused on price. In addition, the polysilicon market is growing in competitiveness, propelling HSC to brainstorm ways to maintain its status as a leader and establish differentiators in the market. With these disruptors as the backdrop, HSC needed a significant cost advantage on their production side in order to stay competitive.
HSC’s transition to using TIBCO solutions provided the opportunity to find methods through which HSC could increase quality in their production while maintaining control of their cost structure. TIBCO’s solutions has allowed HSC the ability to connect data from multiple departments on their production line, access years worth of data, and process millions of records of data. This new, data centric culture allowed data centric approach has allowed TIBCO to identify inefficient in its production processes, eliminate those inefficiencies and streamline their internal operations.
HSC also acknowledges its role in a larger supply chain for both solar technology and everyday electronics. Therefore it’s vital they are able to share current and actionable data internally and with customers. With TIBCO, HSC is now a data-driven culture that can more readily share data and analysis with other members of their supply chains.
The success of HSC’s efforts led to an expanded use of the TIBCO Connected Intelligence platform. HSC used its improved data approach to power the Hemlock Center for Excellence, the culmination of HSC’s new data-driven culture. It gives its users — including internal personnel, suppliers and other members of the supply chain — advanced analytics capabilities, which include data science and virtualization, streaming analytics, and other self-service tools.
About Hemlock Semiconductor
Hemlock Semiconductor Operations (HSC) is a leading provider of hyper-pure polycrystalline silicon and other silicon-based products used in the manufacture of semiconductor devices, solar cells and modules. At HSC, we’re passionate about silicon-based technology and its unique potential to connect and energize the world we share.