Factory Explorer® Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is Factory Explorer®?
Factory Explorer® is an integrated performance analysis tool for manufacturing. Given a factory model, Factory Explorer® predicts, using a variety of methods, how that factory will perform over time. These predictions range in type from capacity (tool and operator utilization, minimum tool and operator quantities, etc) to cycle time (cycle time by product, queue delays and queue lengths by tool group, etc) to cost/revenue (gross margin for the factory, operating expenses for the factory, product cost, etc).

Q: Why is Factory Explorer® better than other software tools?
Factory Explorer® contains a capacity analysis engine, a discrete event simulation engine, and a cost/revenue analysis engine. Because these three engines read a common factory model, there's no reason to build 3 separate models when in fact 90% of the data is common. With one Factory Explorer® model, you can look at capacity, cycle time, and cost/revenue. No other package can do this.

A: Factory Explorer® was built by users, not programmers. This means that we have crafted it to easily answer the most common and most time-consuming tasks usually faced during factory performance analysis projects. With other tools, it's possible to answer the same questions, but it's so time consuming or manually-intensive that it's almost impossible to finish on time (e.g. try generating a cycle time contribution by tool group chart using a regular simulation package). With Factory Explorer®, we make it possible to answer in minutes questions that used to require days of work, because we've faced those questions time and again.

Q: What is the biggest benefit of using Factory Explorer®?
It allows you to anticipate the future and act accordingly, rather than reacting to problems as they arise. E.g. planning a toolset so that bottlenecks don't arise during a ramp, ensuring that a factory will be profitable before the first wafer is run, finding ways to reduce a factory's cycle time without experimenting on the factory floor.

Q: How long does it take to build a validated Factory Explorer® model?
Depending on the availability of data, a reasonable estimate is between 2 and 6 weeks serial time.

Q: Can Factory Explorer® model "X"?
• Setups: Yes (both sequence-dependent and sequence-independent)
• Alternative Steps: Yes (an unlimited # of alternatives are possible for a step)
• Multiple Downtimes: Yes (an unlimited # of downtimes - scheduled and unscheduled - may    be modeled)
• Cluster Tools: Partially (we're working on a separate cluster tool simulator, with the output    from that simulator to be fed into Factory Explorer®)
• Kanbans: Yes (model it as a step that seizes a resource, but does not free it until later in    process)
• Within-Process Lot Splitting: Yes (lot is split into sub-lots that are then recombined later in    the process flow).

Q: Does Factory Explorer® have animation?
No - we believe the existing automated output charts are better able to answer most questions posed of Factory Explorer®.

Q: What questions can Factory Explorer® help me answer?
What is the Best Factory Size?
How Much Slack Capacity Should Be Reserved?
How Much Does Cycle Time Reduction Cost?
How Does Factory Loading Affect Product Cost and Cycle Time?
What are the Top Capacity Constraints (Bottlenecks)?
What are the Top Cycle Time Contributors?
What is the Trend in WIP and Cycle Time?

Q: Can I customize Factory Explorer®?
Partially - With Factory Explorer® 2.3 or later, you can add your own code (C/C++) for custom dispatch rules.

Q: Does Factory Explorer® run on Excel 2000?
Yes, but note that Excel 2000 has 3 Security Levels. The Low one allows for opening files with macros and the Medium setting asks the user to chose to Disable or Enable macros when it opens a file with macros. Those settings correspond to the "off" and "on" settings for "Macro Virus Protection" in earlier Excel versions. When the security setting of Excel 2000 is set to High, a file with macros is opened with macros disabled giving NO message to the user to indicate that has been done! This setting is made in the Tools menu -- Tools/Macro/Security and should be set to Medium so the user can choose to "Enable" macros.

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