'We applaud the ambitions of the NTS-Group'
Paul van Attekum of ASML
‘It’s a common misapprehension that we want to work with fewer suppliers,’ says Paul van Attekum, EVP Strategic Chain Management and Procurement at ASML. ‘We actually need more suppliers who can take on the whole process of the development and manufacturing of complete modules for our machines. We therefore welcome the fact that the NTS-Group is progressing in this direction. In this way, NTS will be able to become an even more valuable partner for us in the future.’
Brainport is home to a number of impressive high-tech OEMs, but there is only one like ASML. It is the world’s largest supplier of machines for the semiconductor industry and is especially renowned for its wafersteppers and scanners, which are used in the production of microchips. The company develops ground-breaking new technology. ASML has thousands of scientists who work continuously on machines that can imprint increasingly smaller details on microchips in order to expand their processing power and to reduce costs.
According to Van Attekum, ‘We are more limited by what is economically feasible than what is technologically possible. Everybody wants to move forward, but the end product, including all the effort put into making it, still has to remain affordable. This is why a well-organised supply chain is so important. ASML wishes to concentrate on its core technology and market. Our suppliers are assuming more and more responsibility for everything in between. We demand a great deal from them, but we can also offer them just as much or more in return. The greater their added value, the more attention all the aspects of our mutual relationship needs.’
ASML’s choice for working with a particular supplier is the outcome of a ‘trust equation’ containing four important factors: competence, reliability, transparency and self-interest. ASML wants to have partners that meet high standards. They have to be able to do something special. It is also important for them to explain what they are going to do and to do what they say, even if problems occur. Furthermore, transparency - a constant flow of information about decisions and why they are made - is also essential. ‘The bottom line in our equation is a healthy dose of self-interest’, says Van Attekum. ‘We all want to make money, which is also a necessary part of maintaining long-term relationships. The formula is incidentally not something we use to calculate a definite order of preference for suppliers. It’s a guideline or a driving force that produces a short list of suitable suppliers. It’s not put down on paper anywhere in black and white, but we do take it into account.’
The next step
ASML distinguishes suppliers in different categories. One category is, for example, suppliers of simple components that you can find anywhere. The list of suppliers thins out significantly for contract manufacturers and partners that can design and build critical systems and modules for ASML.
According to Van Attekum, ‘In this category, the NTS-Group is an important company for us. It is a strong development partner and prototype producer. And it is a dynamic company that adds increasingly more value. The work NTS is doing on important modules for our new EUV machines is a good example of this. The next step in the NTS-Group’s development - which we call an OEM Whitebox and NTS an OMM - is essential to us. Brainport is a region with a relatively large number of high-end suppliers for the semiconductor industry. However, only a few of them are capable of performing high-quality engineering and manufacturing complex modules for ASML. A unique combination of development, engineering and manufacturing competencies is required. Our suppliers in this category have to be able to follow our every move and should preferably develop their own technology roadmap, not just for ASML but for other industries as well. It involves a complex interplay between project management on the work floor, organisation, knowledge transfer, cost control, investment power, stability, autonomy and many, many other things. ASML welcomes the fact that NTS is progressing in this direction. The shortlist of companies that bring all these qualities together is currently much too limited for us. We also realise how difficult it is to take a major step like this and we know we sometimes cannot do it alone; just look at how much multinationals such as Intel, TSMC and Samsung invest in ASML to help accelerate our R&D. As a high-tech OEM, you have to dare to take risks and be able to continue to invest in innovation, sometimes via partnerships in the chain. In this respect, we are very interested in the NTS-Group and confident about what it can do. The company has made huge strides forward over the past ten years and I firmly believe we have a bright future together.’