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Silicon 70 2018

The Best-In-Class Gas Flow Monitoring and Control Technology Platform Provider: Pivotal Systems


Delivering more than expected to all our customers.

Pivotal Systems has been providing the best-in-class gas flow monitoring and control technology platform for the global semiconductor industry since 2011. The company’s proprietary hardware and software utilizes advanced machine learning to enable preventative diagnostic capability resulting in an order of magnitude increase in fab productivity and capital efficiency for existing and future technology nodes.

The company has been growing organically since it was founded, and it is now located in Fremont, CA, Seoul Korea, Hsinchu Taiwan, Shin Yokohama Japan, and Xian China. The absolute key for Pivotal Systems has been operating within its core competencies. The Company achieves this by staying customer-centric as well as outsourcing everything that is not defined as core. “This approach makes decision making on ‘what we will not do’ much simpler,” says Pivotal.

Pivotal Proves that Strength and Growth comes with Advanced Technology and Hard Work

The most difficult challenge the company faced in the early years was getting mindshare with multibillion-dollar customers around the world. Pivotal products can have a direct impact on both wafer and device yield in billion-dollar semiconductor processing lines. The firm had difficulties in obtaining traction with various multi-billion dollar customers due to the scale of risk these companies had to endure to qualify Pivotal’s advanced technology.

The key moment for the company was when it was given the opportunity to partner with a large device manufacturer and a large equipment company. It had to be successful. Pivotal treated this opportunity as a defining moment and the entire company was behind the qualification efforts. In fact, the CTO lived in Korea for 6 months to ensure the product’s success. This is how the company managed to earn both business and the trust of a very strategic customer.

When the Product is Right, Customers Will Find You


Pivotal Systems first launched its Gas Flow Monitor (GFM) Product in 2011. This product was located in existing gas lines used in the gas panels on the wafer processing equipment. The company was able to successfully integrate the GFM product and demonstrate that existing mass flow controllers (MFC’s) lacked the repeatability, accuracy, and speed needed for advanced semiconductor production. It was at this time that Pivotal was approached by both leading device manufacturers and leading process equipment companies to provide an actual gas flow controller. In 2012, Pivotal followed up the GFM Product with its first flow control product the Gas Flow Controller or GFC. The standard GFC offered turn on and turn off speeds in under 100 milliseconds and guaranteed flow accuracy of better than 0.5% of actual gas flow.

Today, Pivotal’s Ultra-High Speed GFCs can operate at speeds down to ≤ 10msec on/off for process setpoint response time. This represents unmatched speed improvement over other suppliers in the industry. At the same time, Pivotal still guarantees flow accuracy of ±0.5% of the set point for the actual gas. This leads to improved chamber matching and better overall production results.

Pivotal has also introduced a new High Flow Family of GFCs enabling flows up to 50 slm. Leading manufacturers are already qualifying the High Flow GFCs into their factories for the most advanced CVD and ALD processes.

IDMs, foundries, and OEMs use Pivotal’s products to dramatically improve yield and productivity by avoiding production scrap events, tightening process windows, and process matching chambers more effectively.

To meet strong industry demand, Pivotal Systems now operates high-capacity manufacturing facilities in both the United States and Korea, and the company has annually doubled its total unit production each year since 2014.

Pivotal introduced its new Flow Ratio Controller (FRC) in July2018 at Semicon West. This was the company’s first product designed to serve in an adjacent market. The most exciting part of this product introduction is that all of the leading process equipment companies, as well as the largest device manufacturer, asked Pivotal to pursue this product independently last fall. This was very rewarding for Pivotal as it was actually seeing its goal to be viewed as an innovation leader come to fruition. This is not something the company will take for granted and Pivotal completely understands that it must constantly work, provide meaningful solutions in order to stay in this most sought after position.

The company expects to continue its growth, and add 2 new products each and every year. Pivotal’s intention is to maintain its status as an industry leader in terms of technology and innovation. Not to mention the company wants to see itself as a preferred destination for its customers at all times.

It is Not About Efforts, it is About Results


Pivotal’s customers have been VERY supportive. Not only do they continue to be excellent consumers of the GFC Technology, they are very good at providing the company with new problems to address. Over the years the hard work paid off as the company could develop new GFC Models and new GFC Software on its existing hardware platform. The company is constantly meeting with both the equipment companies and the device manufacturers to ensure that it is adding features that they need. In some cases, the forward-looking nature of its advanced customers has even allowed it to move the presently owned technology into adjacent markets beyond flow control. This has broadened the company’s Total Available Market (TAM) and has taken the company to a whole new level.

It is evident that with the experience the company carries over its shoulders it will satisfy its customers by providing the best products available in the market.

Success is a function of Maintaining Customer Trust and Providing Great Products

John Hoffman, Chairman, and CEO:

The man whose intentions are to take the company to a whole new level. He has received numerous awards and honors; one among them was the Global CEO Top 100 Award in 2017.

Prior to Pivotal Systems he was the CEO of RagingWire Enterprise Solutions and spent 18 years at Applied Materials, the worlds largest semiconducor process equipment company. While at Applied John was a corporate officer and was responsible for various business groups over the years. John also spent 8 years in the United States Army. While in the Army, John was a company commander in the 5th Infantry Division.

He completed his BS, Engineering at United States Military Academy at West Point and holds an MBA (AEA) degree from Stanford University.