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KLA Team Maximizes Tool Value through the Decades

Nov 9, 2023 3 min read

KLA’s Elizabeth Nio and her team are in the life-extension business: They creatively craft solutions for customer tools to extend performance and maintain serviceability as tools mature.

“Customers often seek to extend the lifetimes of their tools, which requires unique experience to keep them running optimally. We work with a continuous improvement mindset to address each challenge creatively and sustainably.” 

Elizabeth Nio, sustaining manager  

When customers purchase equipment from KLA, they expect their tools to last a long time – and they do. In one product line, 3,000 tools up to 30 years old are in operation at customer facilities around the world, according to Eliazbeth, and customers often seek to optimize and extend the lifetimes of these tools.

As the tool ages, some components like robots, printed circuit boards or system computers will require replacement. As is the case with any complex equipment, over time, the parts and knowledge needed to keep things running as designed aren’t as easy to come by.

When this happens and a customer wants to keep a 3-decade-old tool running, Elizabeth’s team of product engineers is there to support. Their goal is to enable better product and service performance needed to maximize customer’s KLA asset.

Elizabeth’s team works closely with a diverse array of engineering teams to conceive innovative solutions. They also collaborate with the teams developing remanufactured equipment and tool upgrade programs to help customers keep their tools current with the pace of advancing technology in the semiconductor industry.  

Elizabeth Nio holds a prototype model of an older product.
Elizabeth Nio holds a prototype model of an older product.

“We have to make sure the replacement parts and knowledge needed to service our customer tools are readily available so our engineers are able to work efficiently and keep tools running at the specified performance,” Elizabeth says.

Contributing to Virtual Learning Platform

Elizabeth’s innovative mindset is also helping the larger KLA Services organization improve the ways in which they work. When KLA’s Learning and Knowledge Services (LKS) organization was developing an augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) platform, the team asked Elizabeth to be a subject matter expert to review the virtual tool models and accompanying animations that the training team was building. CSEs in LKS classrooms are now using a new AR platform to learn proper servicing procedures and locate machine functions and hardware that cannot always be seen easily or efficiently.

“With AR, CSEs train with a life-size virtual 3D model in front of them that gives a 360-degree look at the tool and can view hard-to-pinpoint parts more clearly,” Elizabeth explains.

Elizabeth checks out virtual training delivered through a headset. Below, an employee trains with KLA's new AR/VR learning platform.
Elizabeth checks out virtual training delivered through a headset. Below, an employee trains with KLA’s new AR/VR learning platform.

Quickly Resolving Customer Challenges Using AR/VR

AR/VR is also being used to quickly resolve challenging situations at customer locations. CSEs can use their headsets to quickly deliver real-time data to KLA’s remotely based technical support engineers (TSEs). During these escalations, TSEs can see the customer’s tool through the CSE’s headset via encrypted video conferencing.

“This groundbreaking initiative is not only revolutionizing product support, but also highlights KLA’s commitment to using new technologies to develop effective solutions,” says Rufo Villa, vice president, Product Support Organization (PSO).

An example of CSEs using their headsets to quickly deliver real-time data to KLA’s remotely based technical support engineers (TSEs).

Building Teamwork and Encouraging Volunteerism

A photo of Elizabeth's team
Elizabeth helps to build a positive workplace through teambuilding events.

Elizabeth is a natural problem-solver, and that drive extends beyond her daily job responsibility. Since 2019, she has volunteered teaching science to elementary students at underprivileged school with KLA foundation partner, Science is Elementary (SiE), and was named KLA National Volunteer Month Employee in 2023.

“Now that I have my own kids in elementary school, volunteering for SiE gives me ideas on science projects I can do with them at home, which they really enjoy,” she says.

This passion started when Elizabeth volunteered to mentor high school students in an afterschool science program while pursuing bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering at the State University of New York at Buffalo. To pursue her dream of a career in Silicon Valley, Elizabeth moved to San Jose, California after graduation and worked for two semiconductor companies before landing at KLA in Milpitas in 2018.

“By combining professional accomplishments with her dedication to continuous improvement, team building and an inclusive culture, Elizabeth nurtures KLA’s culture of being indispensable for customers,” says Tom Han, senior product support director, KLA. “Through her accomplishments and values, Elizabeth continues to inspire her colleagues and nurture a culture that celebrates diversity, teamwork and personal well-being, which contributes to the success of KLA and its customers.”

Read more about KLA’s PSO employees here.

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