Intelligent Systems Drive Profits in Next Generation LED Manufacturing

Intelligent Systems Drive Profits in Next Generation LED Manufacturing

LED lighting has been one of the most transformative industries, having enabled a sea change in energy efficiency and the lowering of carbon emissions due to lighting. The next generation of LED lighting for streetlights, bulbs, camera flash, LED backlights for TVs, and LED lights for automotive applications, will go beyond the replacement of incandescent and fluorescent sources for energy efficiency and longer life. It will bring lighting that caters to human needs (human-centric lighting) with lighting controls at one’s fingertips. Success in the dynamic, fiercely competitive LED market is driven by exceptional customer relationships and the ability to precisely manage a high-mix product line where product customization is the norm, not the exception.

Take automotive. At one time, headlights, taillights, and turn signals on most cars were the work of standard light modules. Now car makers use lighting as styling and branding opportunities, with distinctive lighting designs that show off a particular brand or model. Automobile interiors are being decked out as well, with LED lighting, multiple LED screens, and automated sensing throughout to accommodate individual preferences upon entry. As the automotive market comes roaring back from the pandemic, we anticipate exciting new designs to wow consumers.

Similar levels of mass customization are common in the making of light fixtures for architectural lighting, high-impact retail lighting, and entertainment lighting. All these drives LED manufacturing lines to a higher mix, faster turnaround product demands. At Lumileds, we combine two types of intelligence in our manufacturing facility (fab) operations: the intelligence of our manufacturing teams and the intelligent systems behind our lean manufacturing infrastructure. First, our long-term employees are our greatest assets, and they are continually passing down lessons learned to the next generation of engineers and researchers. By creating a work environment that shows appreciation for high performance at the individual and team levels, we can retain employees longer. The lean manufacturing execution systems (MES) are built for continuous improvement, combining statistical process control (SPC) tools, 6 sigma tools, and always the goal of producing the highest quality LEDs with zero waste, zero defects, and zero accidents.

At the operational level, we integrate data from SPC, MES, finance, part numbers, and quality systems to optimize the quality of LEDs produced at the lowest cost. In the event of a tool “out of control” situation, the vast majority of the time the tool operator or maintenance technician can address the problem without engineering intervention. This sharing of expertise among engineers, operators, and maintenance personnel enables engineering groups to focus more on special improvement projects. Each excursion is also documented and traced for long-term reduction in tool downtime and yield excursions.

Lumileds expects LED lighting to continue its proliferation into every lighting application, providing energy savings, longer lamp life, and improved color quality over legacy light sources. In the fab, manufacturing intelligence will continue to build as artificial intelligence (AI) improves the learning rates in MES and quality programs. If we can continue to attract new engineering talent to the semiconductor industry, we expect the company’s leadership in quality lighting to remain strong.

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