Design for Process Equipment Installation Ramp

Through innovative design concepts, benchmarking common practices, and scheduling, SSOE has saved the client more than $7.3 million to date.

Nimble and resourceful, SSOE quickly increased personnel for a critical tool installation design project when a semiconductor client accelerated release of a new technology. This project, part of an ongoing program for the client, included the installation of 250 tools over the course of a year.

Initially, the project required all design work to be performed in Oregon. However, due to the quick ramp up needed on this project, the client determined that design work could be completed remotely. SSOE quickly responded, engaging tool installation design teams in New Mexico and Arizona to support the Oregon team. In addition—for the first time in SSOE’s tool installation design program history—SSOE’s Mumbai, India, and Leon, Mexico, teams were engaged to provide critical support to meet project demands. Getting these international team members on board allowed for greater agility and flexibility on this project. In addition, it allows for a trained workforce to be available on short notice for burst capacity as well as subsequent easing off the project as workload diminishes. This approach keeps SSOE’s project budgets and schedules healthy and, in turn, enables our clients to get their products to market on-time to meet demand at a competitive price point.

In addition to providing a high level of service on this project, SSOE implemented a number of efficiencies that have saved the client more than $7.3 million to date. A utilization-based resource staffing model and a workshare agreement form, as well as innovative design concepts, have all contributed to these significant project savings.

Design for Process Equipment Installation Program

SSOE has been performing design engineering for tool installation packages for MOK (Multiple of Kind) and FOK (First of Kind) tools for multiple functional areas of this world-leading semiconductor client’s development manufacturing facility. This project launched the client’s new business methodology of designing engineered packages from one location for projects around the world, with part of the team on the ground for design review and fieldwork and the remainder of the team in other U.S. locations. This enabled the client’s internal engineering design staff to exert more control over the design process for standardization throughout the entire corporation.

Because of our success, SSOE was able to be highly efficient, leveraging the skills of SSOE team members operating in multiple locations including Santa Clara, Oregon, New Mexico, and Arizona.

Schedule was a significant challenge for this program, as rapidly evolving technologies and developmental fine-tuning resulted in the needs changing throughout. SSOE’s flexibility and skill at managing scope change has been key to the success of this project—enabling the achievement of client productivity goals. In recognition of SSOE’s ability to keep pace while maintaining a high level of quality, the client consistently allocates additional scope above and beyond the standard tool installation design.

The team’s exceptional attention to detail extends to our cost management systems. Through lean management and continuous process improvements, SSOE continuously returns savings to the client. This culture and focus has given the client confidence in SSOE’s abilities, as evidenced in additional project awards.

Subfab & Perimeter Laterals

SSOE saved the client $7 million in installation costs by leveraging PPMOF and BIM.

A global semiconductor client had plans to fit out an empty manufacturing building with process tools for a new technology. They selected SSOE to design the build-out of the sub fab laterals because of our extensive BIM capabilities. SSOE led the work for the subfab process laterals—an extension of utilities that would facilitate process tool installation on the level above. The 1300 process laterals included chemicals, gases, waste, waters, exhaust, telecom, and life safety systems. The team facilitated an early construction start date and saved the client money by leveraging several unique work approaches:

PPMOF: Prefabrication, Preassembly, Modularization, and Off-site Fabrication

SSOE approached the design with the client’s goal of PPMOF in mind. This strategy allowed installation coordination to take place early, providing schedule and labor savings. The team designed the strut racks to be fabricated off-site, then lifted into position in modules. All water, gas, and waste lines were fabricated with valves off-site in the longest lengths possible to rig onto the rack.


SSOE team members transitioned BIM design models into construction models to aid in the execution of PPMOF and eliminate project waste by removing the need to create a construction model from scratch. The construction models were then used to produce fabrication (spool) drawings for the trade partner to fabricate off-site. The team saved additional time by eliminating the typical contractor redline process used to develop record drawings. Since the model was used for fabrication there were no deviations from design. Such tight alignment resulted in the achievement of zero-redline designs due in part to SSOE opening up our office to enable the trade partners to co-locate with SSOE during the project.


Kanban, a scheduling system for lean manufacturing and “just-in-time manufacturing,” was used to coordinate design efforts and streamline communication. This was the team’s first time using this software across companies—between SSOE and the trade contractors. It provided visibility of hand-offs between each company resulting in zero lost time and minimal email communication.

International Workshare

By collaborating with counterparts in India to achieve day and night design effort, the team was able to ramp up production to help meet the aggressive schedule set for this project. The use of Kanban for hand-offs between the two teams was crucial in meeting many of the project milestones. This method provided an estimated 50% increase in productivity.

Mask Operations Upgrade

In a multi-billion dollar industry where companies feel pressure to continually innovate and increase efficiency, semiconductor manufacturers cannot afford to have anything stop production in their fabrication facilities. This global semiconductor client discovered that the cleanroom in their aging mask operations facility was at risk of going out of compliance due to the state of the mechanical systems. The client chose SSOE, through our Joint Venture Design / Build partnership with JE Dunn, to embark on a nearly 2-year, $150 million project to modernize the facility, bringing it up to specification and into compliance with current standards for code, reliability, and safety.

Upgrading of the facility’s mechanical and process systems was a large undertaking. The work included: 

Hazardous chemical storage space. SSOE addressed the need by expanding the chemical storage space and necessary support systems including exhaust fans and scrubbers, and safety treatment systems for chemical storage areas.

Acid waste neutralization system. SSOE upgraded this system by adding a caustic storage and distribution system and reaction tank modifications.

Additional mechanical and process system upgrades. These included chilled water, heating water, system cross-ties to provide redundancy, process vacuum, house vacuum, and process chilled water supplying the process tools in the fab.

BIM2Fab. SSOE performed detailing of the heating water and chilled water piping to produce fabrication drawings of the piping for the system crossties.

Clean-up. To create adequate space for all new systems, the team demolished and removed obsolete equipment.

A small team on the ground at the client’s facility received support from a remote design team residing in multiple SSOE offices. The project team made extensive use of BIM and Point Cloud software, eliminating the need to locate an entire team on the client’s site. This resulted in significant project savings and allowed the team to make the most of the resources available to them.

Connecting Two Semiconductor Fabrication Facilities

Facing ever-increasing industrywide pressure to reduce cost and time to market, a world-leading semiconductor manufacturer needed to increase efficiencies on its 300-acre technology development campus. This project involved the design and construction of a 43,000 SF structure, known as a “cleanlink,” to connect the chip maker’s primary research facilities—allowing for the seamless integration of manufacturing.

Prior to this structure’s completion, cleanroom staff had been forced to use complex and time-consuming measures in order to fully utilize the separate fab buildings. With the cleanlink in place, wafers can now move to the other fabs on campus without leaving a clean environment and risking damage to the product.

Moving wafers within the link and fabs is accomplished by an Automated Material Handling System (AMHS). More than 2.5 miles of overhead track connect the AMHS wafer conveyance systems of multiple buildings, allowing for direct tool-to-tool WIP movement without human intervention.

The cleanlink consists of three structures:

A Transition Building. A two-story Transition Building with H5 occupancy was designed to enable the AMHS to overcome the elevation difference between two of the buildings. It contains multiple catwalks and interstitial levels, providing access for maintenance for both the transition devices and the AMHS. Wafers are moved both horizontally and vertically within this space.

An AMHS Link. The AMHS Link was designed to accommodate pedestrian traffic, but its primary function is to support and enclose the AMHS track system. An interstitial level provides access and maintenance points for servicing the AMHS.

A reconstructed utility bridge and pedestrian walkway. SSOE and JE Dunn removed and reconstructed 80% of an existing pedestrian walkway to more effectively handle the upgraded AMHS system and to create a more efficient walkway used by people every day.

Design for Process Equipment Installation Program

Following the client’s success in a high-volume manufacturing facility using a new design methodology—providing design engineering for tool installation packages from one location for projects around the world—SSOE was requested to mobilize for a new project in a second high-volume manufacturing facility. SSOE augmented a small team of local staff in Arizona with design staff in Oregon, New Mexico, and Ohio to perform MOK (Multiple of Kind) tool installation designs for the most complex functional area of this world-leading semiconductor client’s high-volume manufacturing facility.

Two A/E firms were already on-site performing design work locally but were unable to meet the steep demand curve of this new technology transfer project. Integrating into the site where existing BKMs and stakeholder expectations differed significantly from contracted deliverables proved a significant challenge. SSOE was recognized for leadership in promoting the new program to client stakeholders and guiding other A/E firms on the program parameters including code compliance issues, project reporting, and quality program implementation.

SSOE started 79 and completed 31 tool design packages in its first quarter on-site and closed a backlog of highly complex tool conversion designs within 8 weeks. While mobilizing from 0 to 28 staff across 4 sites and with significant schedule and stakeholder availability issues, SSOE maintained a 100% performance against schedule rate and a 98% positive quality scorecard rate.

Office and Research Facility

SSOE completed a complex programming and schematic design effort for an approximately 1,100,000 SF, seven-story multipurpose building that serves as a model for workplaces of the future.

The building contains a 2.6 MW data center, two floors of class 10,000 high-tech cleanroom manufacturing and chip testing space, with five floors of office, cafe, and fitness center spaces to accommodate approximately 3,800 employees. Linked connections to neighboring buildings were created to provide passage for employees, utilities, and automated material handling systems. A pedestrian sky bridge to the parking garage was designed to accommodate a direct, convenient connection without impacting the existing wetlands. The project, utilizing a high-performance envelope, daylighting strategies, and high-efficiency mechanical systems, met the criteria for LEED Silver certification.

The office levels were organized into neighborhoods consisting of workstation groups, collaboration rooms, and community zones. These were combined with support spaces based on a formula for connectivity and an interactive office environment. Small and large community zones are located throughout the floor at strategic points where employees can work, meet informally, or relax as a community.

The objective was to create a design aesthetic to complement the existing campus architecture. Throughout the design process, this goal was elevated to create a distinctive architectural look that reflects the values of our client and today’s workers.