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Second Interim Report
Clair Brown, Editor

13. A Systems View of Work Group Performance: An Example from Semiconductor Manufacturing
David M. Bowen

1.0 Introduction
2.0 Training Time as a Measure of Knowledge, Skills, Abilities
3.0 Results
4.0 Strategies for Improving Work Group Performance
5.0 Conclusions
RF References


Many organizations are designing work for groups rather than individuals. This surge of interest in work groups is likely the result of some well publicized successful conversions from traditional (individual based) work systems to group based work systems (see e.g., Hackman, 1990, Hoerr, 1989, Bassin, 1988, Wellins, 1988). These accounts are primarily anecdotal in nature, and adequate models of work group performance which are supported by data are lacking.

Numerous types of work groups are in use in the semiconductor manufacturing environment (Bowen, 1994). In this report we focus on the performance of a production work group or 'module' at a medium sized facility in a large, multiple manufacturing site, organization. This work group includes engineers, technicians and operators all managed by an individual called a facilitator. The work group is one of 16 work modules at the facility, organized according to area/process (four) and shift (four). We utilize weekly performance data (twenty-three periods) and over three years of training data from this work module.

The group works 12 hour shifts and alternates between working 3 and 4 days a week. Shifts start at 6:00 a.m. and end at 6:00 p.m. Production activities are concentrated on 4 product lines including both advanced microprocessors and advanced memory products, and the running of both commercial and engineering lots. The subject group runs 32 types of equipment, approximately 50 pieces of equipment total.

The semiconductor industry is a capital intensive, high technology, highly automated, minute dimension, safety conscious, quality dependent, high risk venture. The combination of these characteristics lead to a number of conunon manufacturing practices. Most semiconductor fabrication facilities (fabs) run on a continuous 24 hours per day 7 days a week schedule. The sensitivity of the manufacturing processes to contaminates (e.g., to particulates as small as 0.2 microns) means that the fabrication process must take place in a cleanroom environment. Fabrication of IC's involves processes that use many hazardous and volatile chemicals, and requires extensive safety procedures and systems. The large pay-off from being the first to market with a particular product, and the typically steady and steep decline in price thereafter, means that producers are acutely aware of the criticality of competing on dimensions of time.

The 'high tech' cutting edge nature of the industry produces a continuous stream of technological advances that must be understood and incorporated into processes and products. This in turn requires constant training and education of workers to develop a working knowledge of new developments.


To approximate the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA's) each individual could contribute to the work group at any given time, we examined training records covering the time from the opening of the facility to the time of the study, a period of over three years. These records include three categories of training; general skills, certifications and equipment.

There are 19 general skills courses offered, including one or more courses in wafer handling, protocol, safety, use of computer systems, organizational culture, communication skills, Statistical Process Control, and fab operations and processes. These courses are generally carried out in a classroom or mock cleanroom setting and are conducted by personnel from the subject fab's training department.

There are 26 certifications listed in the training database. Certifications are focused on the operation of a given piece of equipment to process wafers. The training for certification is conducted in-house on the fab floor by experienced operators, technicians, engineers or facilitators. This training usually entails instruction and then examination. The exam can include oral, written and practical, (i.e., successfully performing the processing under supervision) components, and is evaluated on a pass/fail basis.

There are 30 equipment training courses available, including multiple courses for different aspects of the same piece of equipment. Equipment training (or 'supplier training') is focused on equipment function, operation, maintenance, repair, control, calibration, programming and troubleshooting.

The equipment manufacturers usually conduct the equipment training courses, and these courses are offered either a the manufacturing site or at another location (i.e., at the equipment venders' facility or training site). Often purchase and maintenance agreements will include a specific number of training slots per year for the purchaser to utilize.

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