The COVID-19 pandemic changed our lives and our way of working tremendously in the past months; we are not able to travel abroad, we communicate in a different way and meetings take place virtually instead of in person. For our business, these restrictions translate into major challenges with respect to shipment of goods and installation of tools.
Last year we invested heavily in our global support infrastructure, which helped us now to overcome the challenges. ZEISS SMS established several new spare part hubs around the globe. A new hub near Frankfurt / Germany airport was opened allowing to deliver spare parts much faster. Another new hub was equipped in Shanghai, China, to secure our growing installed base in China and a third one was established in Tainan / Taiwan. Here we mainly focus on MeRiT spare parts to secure the uptime of our large MeRiT® mask repair tool base in Asia.
In addition, we increased the stock level in all hubs around the globe to be more flexible in case of delayed deliveries from suppliers or increased demand of certain parts. All these measures helped us to overcome the latest shipping restrictions and to secure tool and spare part supply.
On the installation side, we also had to adapt to the travel restrictions. If possible at all, headquarter specialists found it difficult to visit customers mainly due to travel restrictions, having to go on a 14-day quarantine upon arrival. Therefore, ZEISS launched a “Digital Remote Assistance Project”. In a very short timeframe, we adapted our working mode and conducted our first virtual tool installations.
Local engineers have taken the responsibility for the installations along with remote assistance from the headquarter team. We made the first experiences installing an AIMS® 1x-193i and a MeRiT® neXT at the customer Fab with video support. In order to provide live support and consulting we designed a set-up with webcams.
The team is currently developing a long-term solution for user-friendly and robust remote support . “The shift to use new digital technologies had to be done very quickly under these unique circumstances. It is a totally new way of working and a very detailed plan is needed in advance, but thanks to the huge effort from the local engineers and the headquarter support team the installation was carried out successfully”, summarizes Dr. Kokila Egodage, Project Manager of the Digital Remote Assistance project.