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Process Innovation and Learning by Doing in Semiconductor Manufacturing

  • Nile W. Hatch

    (Department of Business Administration, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Illinois 61820)

  • David C. Mowery

    (Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California 94720)

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    This paper analyzes the relationship between process innovation and learning by doing in the semiconductor industry where improvements in manufacturing yield are a catalyst for dynamic cost reductions. In contrast to most previous studies of learning by doing, the learning curve is shown here to be the product of deliberate activities intended to improve yields and reduce costs, rather than the incidental byproduct of production volume. Since some of the knowledge acquired through learning by doing during new process development is specific to the production environment where the process is developed, some knowledge is effectively lost when a new process is transferred to manufacturing. We find that dedicated process development facilities, geographic proximity between development and manufacturing facilities, and the duplication of equipment between development and manufacturing facilities are all significant in improving performance in introducing new technologies. Once in manufacturing, new processes are shown to disrupt the ongoing learning activities of existing processes by drawing away scarce engineering resources to "debug" the new processes.

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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.44.11.1461
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    Article provided by INFORMS in its journal Management Science.

    Volume (Year): 44 (1998)
    Issue (Month): 11-Part-1 (November)
    Pages: 1461-1477

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    Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:44:y:1998:i:11-part-1:p:1461-1477
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