How can semiconductor manufacturers reduce their CO2 emissions?

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Semiconductor manufacturers can’t reduce CO2 emissions and energy consumption without digital technology and an end-to-end strategy

While it’s imperative that semiconductor manufacturers cut their carbon footprint, that’s a lofty goal that is proving hard to reach. That’s because the industry has major sustainability challenges to solve, including the need to reduce heavy energy use without hindering chip production. This is especially complex as some machines, like extreme ultraviolet lithography systems (EUVs), actually use 10 times more energy than previous generations of equipment.

It will be more challenging for semiconductor manufacturers to overcome these sustainability barriers if they don’t develop and implement an end-to-end sustainability strategy. This strategy must leverage digital technologies that track carbon emissions and manage and optimize energy use.  Without these components, manufacturers miss opportunities to decarbonize. For example, if decisions aren’t made based on accurate real-time data and analysis, it’s very difficult to pinpoint areas where fabs can reduce energy use and uncover additional opportunities to reduce CO2 emissions.

Research shows that prioritizing digital technology use and sustainability better positions companies for future growth

Integrating technology and sustainability makes businesses stronger and more successful. For example, an Accenture study found that companies that integrate digital and sustainable transformations into their operations and value chains are 2.5 times more likely to be among tomorrow’s strongest-performing businesses. They’re also being better positioned for future growth.

Which digital tools support semiconductor manufacturers’ sustainability goals?

Here are two features of digital tools that can help:

Enterprise-level CO2 emissions tracking: The semiconductor industry accounted for roughly 41 million tons of CO2 in 2020. That is equivalent to the energy use of over 5 million homes in one year.This can only be reduced if semiconductor manufacturers measure and track CO2 emissions to get a clear view of their carbon footprint. Using analytics, these data can be translated into action. A single, enterprise-level platform is powerful because it gives manufacturers the ability to analyze sustainability metrics (CO2 emissions, etc.), energy and resources supply data, as well as facility information in one place.

Energy management: Digital technologiesidentify energy inefficiencies so that manufacturers know exactly where they need to make improvements. While optimizing energy use is good for the planet, it also helps fabs reduce their operating and production costs – something that’s especially important as energy costs rise.

Let’s take a closer look at other key benefits of these tools

1. Consumption transparency

A fab’s energy consumption can constitute up to 15-30% of its total OPEX. Reducing this consumption requires detailed knowledge of how the fab’s energy is used. Digital technologies that collect and analyze energy and resource data can give insights on consumption across systems, buildings, and plants, all the way up to the enterprise level.

2. Efficient energy management using analytics and artificial intelligence (AI)

Advanced analytics and artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) drive semiconductor manufacturers’ smart decision making allowing them to make informed decisions based on facts and contextualized data. They uncover potential energy inefficiencies and savings that aren’t obvious using only human interpretation. Using such technology, historical data can be analyzed, predictive models can be built, and simulations can be run to help identify the optimizations.

3. Transparency across the whole value chain

One key success factor in delivering on sustainability ambitions is making sure the whole organization and value chain is moving toward the same goal. Transparency is key for achieving this. Digital technology brings this transparency fostering seamless collaboration internally and along the value chain.

For example, IT/OT integration provides real-time insights

Information technology/operational technology (IT/OT) integration across multiple systems and sites brings more business value by providing semiconductor manufacturers with real-time insights into specific domain KPIs.  For example, overall fab energy consumption that is monitored by the facility monitoring and control system (through the OT system) can be correlated with production output (resides on the IT system). This allows real-time monitoring to benchmark and identify potentially inefficient or abnormal energy consumption. This way, relevant stakeholders can be informed and necessary actions can be made in a timely manner.

For instance, a common scalable environment and centralized data service management that can access multiple Industrial IoT applications lets manufacturers:

  • Access and collect operational data, from edge to cloud, within one standard industrial data model
  • Process, analyze, and present data for real-time business monitoring, with meaningful KPIs and analytics
  • Meet specific industrial needs, with a range of pre-packaged applications (energy efficiency, CO2 emissions tracking, etc.) or developing tailored customer applications

Learn how a top semiconductor company is digitizing and decarbonizing its fabs

One of the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturers is working to digitize and decarbonize its business with a goal of reducing energy consumption by 10% by 2030 across all its fabs. To do this, the manufacturer is deploying Schneider Electric’s analytics solutions and applications, which target use cases in a proof of concept (PoC) environment. The company is following a four-step sustainability approach that provides a single source of truth for energy and sustainability data to maximize energy savings and carbon reduction. These tools will allow the manufacturer to:

  • Monitor energy consumption and emissions across multiple sites
  • Identify savings opportunities with actionable insights
  • Report and benchmark progress
  • Develop and train process models and run offline and/or online simulations to help identify how to optimize energy usage
  • Automate energy savings with digitization

Develop your sustainability strategy

Shaping and executing your sustainability ambitions depends on finding the right end-to-end partner who can guide your strategy from consulting to deploying solutions. Together you’ll ensure your fab has the right digital solutions for improving your carbon footprint while also improving your business.

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