Is industry consolidation driving improved quality in OSATs?


In the semiconductor industry subcontract test houses have long had the reputation of focusing on getting product out of the door as quickly as possible, sometimes at expense of anything else. This has left many in the position of being concerned with pass, fail and open / short failures.

It's evident there has been a shift in the industry. As more companies move from having their own test floor to employing subcontractors to do their testing the experienced engineers overseeing the operation see a big difference in the quality of the operation and quality of the feedback they receive. Simple bin, failure mode, reports are no longer adequate to meet the demands of today’s fabless companies. Parametric data, histograms, box plots, trend charts are all demanded on a daily basis.

While some large fabless companies will demand that a test house uses particular software or employs their own procedures the majority of customers at the test houses cannot be so prescriptive. What is making the difference however is where the fabless companies are choosing to put their business. The smart test houses can see this coming and are implementing new systems to provide more detailed and more timely data and reports to their customers.

A good example of this can be found in a large Taiwan test house who have long seen themselves as “the testing industry benchmark”. This company have around 400 of their high end mixed signal testers connected to a server running yieldHUB. This software gives the engineers insight into what is happening on the test floor in detail that was not available before. Every datalog from every tester 24 hours a day 7 days a week are processed through the server. With automatic reports for customers, exception alerts to highlight any issues and detailed analysis all available on this hub, manufacturing and customer relationships are changing.

It is very interesting to be at the forefront of an industry shift, to be working with the outsourced assembly and test companies to improve the vision they have of their test floor. And to help them share more information, more quickly with their customers.

Right now the OSATs are competing with each other for many new opportunities as consolidation pushes more and more business to them. Price will win some business but excellent service will win more in the long run. In my opinion consolidation is driving improved quality in the OSATs, though I believe that we are still near the start of this process.

What does this mean to you? If you are in a test house then you should look at your systems and quality of the data, reports and information that you deliver to your customers. If you are a customer of OSATs then be demanding, if your test house is not working closing with you another will.