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game changer

Guustaaf Savenije CTO at VDL-ETG

For Guustaaf Savenije CTO it is absolutely clear: "Innovations in the high-tech industry result from in-depth cooperation." To him the application of a systems’ approach is key to create new types of customer value.

It is well known that all of the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) try to take more responsibility for their customers and create additional value. This raises issues like the control over the total cost of ownership and the management the life cycle of their products.

In Savenije's view this inflicts the delegation of more functionality from the OEM to their suppliers. "This delegation" he states, "can only be successful if it is based on a shared and comprehensive view and on a clear cut rearrangement of the supply chain". This rearrangement is truly a paradigm shift, making the ones to complete this shift real game changers.

Growing Interdependence

To underline his argument he explains the traditional concept of 'build to print'. The OEM specifies in detail how a part of a product should be built. The metaphor for this relation is the technical drawing in print. In the case of underperformance the supplier is exchangeable for another. To structure the growing interdependence between OEM and supplier, companies have to be able to work in multi-disciplinary and cross-functional technical projects. In a first step in this process a supplier responds to the specifications of the OEM by proposing a design and producing accordingly: build to specifications. A next step could be the OEM indicating its development in milestones or a roadmap. The supplier may move in line by designing the technologies to meet these milestones and by the production of the constituting components: build to roadmap. The supplier ends up being responsible of the product live cycle and the total cost of ownership of the components he put in place in the OEM-product.


As the Chief Technical Officer at VDL-ETG, Guustaaf Savenije is one of the persons to shape this paradigm shift. He oversees the integration of mechatronic (sub) systems and modules for OEM's of capital-intensive high tech products. Not surprisingly, the motto of the company is "Strength through Cooperation".

"In our market, complex ‘production’ machines, we see OEM's like ASML, ASMI, Philips Healthcare, FEI, Applied Materials and Assembleon. Their products can be broken down to building blocks – components, sensors, and actuators. Many of these building blocks are functional modules. OEM's more and more tend to outsource these entire functional modules. To meet this, multi-disciplinary solutions (mechanics, electronics, software, physics) are required. Suppliers will have to board more technical knowledge and development skills."

"Partnership" he continues, "implies a shared vision about innovation in the supply chain. So, more then the traditional discussion of 'how to make a part' you discuss 'what to make'. You place the creation of value over cost, and effectiveness over efficiency. The relation is built on capabilities, reliability, and transparency," and, he adds, "a healthy portion of sell-interest."

Wafer Handler

Savenije took some of the key learning in this game changing approach from the production of the Wafer Handler, a part of the immense ASML machines. The Wafer Handler is the module that handles the silicon wafers when they come into the ASML machine from the outside world (the fab), subsequently creates the required Temperature uniformity over the wafer and then hands the wafer onto the Wafer Stage where the wafers are measured and illuminated with laser light to get the patterns onto the wafers with nanometer precision. Traditionally, for his company 'build to print' meant the production of the Wafer Handler in accordance to a technical blueprint provided by ASML. The relation between the two companies was loose and interchangeable. Today both companies share a vision – defined by the OEM – on the technological roadmap for their contribution to the Wafer Handler and VDL-ETG presents the way it is going to meet the milestones defined in the roadmap.

The benefits of this approach relate to a better management of complexity – resulting in a better management of cost of ownership, and to life cycle management of parts of complex machines. Growing interdependencies also involve risks on both sides. These risks are managed in contracts, but handled in mutual trust. In any case it is a promising, but a long way from technical blueprint to cross-functional program management in coproduction. Savenije: "Only companies that fully understand their own core activities in relation to the core of their partners can move forward in this way. Both sides think in architectures and in technical roadmaps".

High Tech Systems Center

In order to remain competitive in the global market the creation of critical mass is compulsory. The Eindhoven region has developed a strong high tech network of partnering companies and institutions. He very much welcomes the recently established High Tech Systems Center at the Eindhoven University as an important addition in this ever-growing complexity of the region's eco-system. "I hope", he closes off, "it helps to secure the exchange of knowledge and expertise."

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