CCO Anna-Riikka Vuorikari-Antikainen:
35 year old Okmetic has preserved customer and technology focus in its DNA despite the massive technology leap in the semiconductor industry
Okmetic has reached a respectable age of 35 years, and the company’s anniversary is nearing its end. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the anniversary celebrations turned out quite differently than we had initially expected at the end of the last year. This year, virtual customer meetings and industry events have become very familiar, and as for our operations, we have focused on securing the health of our employees, customers and other stakeholders, as well as ensuring smooth and high-quality operation of our production and supply chain under all circumstances.
Unfortunately, we have not been able to arrange the company's 35th anniversary with our customers, employees, suppliers and other stakeholders due to the pandemic. However, the milestone has often crossed my mind and stopped me thinking about everything that has happened over these years. I have been part of Okmetic’s story for almost thirty years now and I have been involved in developing the company and witnessing its evolution from a small operator in the industry into a world’s leading supplier of high value-added wafers for MEMS and Sensors as well as D&A markets.
Company DNA has remained the same despite the technology leap
I could tell many stories about the ups and downs of the semiconductor market, innovations and various milestones, fruitful co-operation with customers and suppliers, as well as Okmetic’s own achievements in the development of production, products and e.g. own IT systems. However, it is hard to summarize 35 years as the technology leap and growth in the semiconductor industry has been so gigantic.
One of Okmetic’s supporting legs, originally a small MEMS market, has grown into a significant part of the semiconductor industry, which is utilized in e.g. ML and AI solutions, but also as a central part of the infrastructure in self-driving cars and in solutions invented for the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The growth and progress of the other supporting leg, that is the D&A market, has also been significant and will be accelerated even further by 5G, electric cars and various power supply solutions.
It could be said that many things have changed over the years both in the semiconductor industry and at Okmetic. However, there is something that has remained the same in the company DNA after all these years, and that is providing added-value to our customers. The customer has always been in a central role in our values and daily operations. Our goal is to provide real added value to you customers and help you succeed in your businesses.
Providing added value to our customers was one of our premises even back then when the pioneers of our company set out to conduct preliminary semiconductor market research in the 1980s. I also have to mention one example from the 1990s, when the MEMS market was still in its infancy and Okmetic started to develop DSP (double-sided polishing) technology for pressure sensors at the request of customers. The customers had a high demand for extremely flat DSP wafers and with tight co-operation and hard internal development work we managed to produce excellent solutions. They were not the most traditional technological solutions in the industry, but they were successful both in MEMS-based inertial and pressure sensors in the automotive industry and in consumer products.
Even these days, the premises are the same when we are discussing with the product development teams of our customers regarding matters such as the possibilities provided by Okmetic's in-house patterning solutions, and when piloting new platforms to help our customers simplify their production processes or improve the performance of their products.
Another central aspect in company DNA is developing new technologies and capabilities and their scalability as well as the ability to transfer these to volume production. At the beginning of 21st century, we developed High Resistivity silicon wafers in co-operation with the engineers at CERN for their detectors. We utilized our extensive crystal growth expertise and allocated a lot of resources to a small business of a single project. Even back then, the members of our farsighted R&D team identified that we can help the growing RF market by developing these capabilities and their scalability for production. As can be expected, this planted the seed for the product family of High Resistivity silicon wafers that we supply for the 5G market in volumes.
The significance of quality increases constantly in all areas
The significance of continuous improvement and high quality are emphasized in the semiconductor sector as a result of stringent technology nodes and more complex end-products. Sometimes it feels like things were easier back in the day and now everything is more challenging or complex. It is still worth noting that the quality requirements have always been strict when compared to the production and measurement capabilities of the time.
The quality responsibility of each employee and quality management systems have been an integral part of Okmetic’s daily operations ever since the production started. Even before the first ISO certificates, many elements of quality management systems were used in production. I remember it well because my first larger project at Okmetic was certifying the ISO quality management system in 1995, and this strong mindset for high quality helped a lot in that work.
Over the years, the number of systems certified in e.g. quality, environment and social responsibility has only increased and the systems have become more tightly integrated into our daily operations. These days, quality does not only encompass the technical quality of the product, but also the entire customer experience, service, data and also the way we upload orders from customer portals making us integrated part of customer’s production planning system.
We listen to customer needs in all this work and welcome collaborative development projects. Sadly, physical audits have not been possible during the pandemic, but fortunately active co-operation with customers has continued through virtual meetings and various electronic platforms.
During the 35 years of Okmetic's operations we have created a good foundation that enables us to continue the successful journey towards Okmetic’s next anniversary together with our customers, personnel and other stakeholders.