Rethinking Stats In Manufacturing Equipment

SEMI drops book-to-bill report due to market shifts.


Consolidation, slower market growth due to increasing complexity, and extended lead times have prompted SEMI to drop its book-to-bill reports.

Long considered the best way to assess the health of the semiconductor manufacturing equipment business, the industry organization now views the book-to-bill report as far less valuable than in the past.

“At the leading edge, there are only a handful of companies investing in fabs, and there are questions about timing and delivery,” said Dan Tracy, senior director of Industry Research & Statistics at SEMI. “The whole process is more complex. There are long lead times—in some cases more than a year—and things can get pushed out and delayed beyond that. So bookings is a less important factor.”

Tracy said one of the key areas that SEMI is following involves new fabs and how and when they ramp up. He said that by 2019, China will be the largest consumer of fab equipment, although not all of that will be new or the latest equipment. Nevertheless, he noted that in two years the total amount spent on manufacturing equipment will be greater than Taiwan and Korea.

Numbers vary for exactly how many new fabs China is building. One industry source estimates there are 11 new projects. Tracy believes the number is as high as 20. But some of those are retrofitted or expansions of existing facilities, both 200mm and 300mm, so actual numbers vary depending upon what is included.

Tracking equipment booked to those fabs is sometimes equally confusing. While some of the fabs will be used for leading-edge processes, others will be for legacy nodes for power semiconductors, microcontrollers and MEMS.

In any case, book-to-bill reports are no longer considered a reliable metric to gauge growth in this market segment. SEMI issued its final report last month. (See chart below), although the organization will continue to publish its billings report.

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Source: SEMI.


Bill Martin says:

Same should be done for process node nomenclature. At one time it had a consistent meaning across the industry. Over the past decade, the nm node “names” are more like car names that obsfucate technical truth.

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