Industry News, Trends, and Technology, and Standards Updates

To the Cimetrix Community of Clients, Partners, Shareholders, and Employees

I believe that 2015 will be viewed as a significant turning point in the history of Cimetrix. When I accepted the role and responsibility of president and CEO of Cimetrix in 2001, Cimetrix was a publicly traded company. In addition to the normal challenges of running a business, Cimetrix was required to comply with all SEC reporting obligations. When the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) imposed additional financial reporting obligations with increased internal controls, Cimetrix was required to spend even more time and money. I’ve always believed if you are going to do something, you should do it to the best of your abilities. Consequently, Cimetrix dutifully fulfilled its quarterly SEC reporting and SOX compliance obligations. Every year independent SOX auditors performed the required annual audit and their reports always concluded that there were no material weaknesses in our financial reporting or internal controls.

IMG_5110.jpgFor a small company like Cimetrix, we can be proud of these accomplishments. We are very thankful to have had Jodi Juretich as CFO for these past eight years. Jodi managed the company’s financials and was responsible for preparing all of our SEC filings. For those of you not aware, the SOX laws include significant personal liability for the CEO and CFO in the event of any material errors or misstatements. As a result, while we had no idea how many people might read our SEC filings (other than the fact that we know our competitors all meticulously read each and every one), each filing had to be reviewed not only internally, but also by SOX compliance consultants, auditors, lawyers, and the board of directors. Significant management time and precious time with our board of directors was spent reviewing and approving SEC filings. As I hope everyone can appreciate, this represented a huge burden for a small company like Cimetrix. In addition to the hard costs that we estimated at approximately $250,000 per year, it is difficult to overstate the amount of energy in terms of management time and attention that went into reviewing and approving not only the financial statements, but the mandatory narratives for these quarterly SEC filings.

Since the introduction of SOX, many public companies have made the decision to go private, and we received a lot of advice over the years that Cimetrix would likewise be much better off as a private company. As you can imagine, however, there are many factors that go into such a decision. We always considered what is best for our shareholders, clients, and employees. Accordingly we were careful and patient in waiting for the right opportunity. From our perspective, that opportunity arose last year, which allowed us to go private without the need for external capital or any dilution to our shareholders. We believe it was an excellent use of the company’s cash to remove the ongoing “tax” of being a public company, which we accomplished in late 2014.

As I reflect back on our first year as a private company, there were a number of highlights in 2015.

  • The change in management focus has been remarkable. From the board-level to the daily and weekly operational meetings, the focus is now centered on clients, products, and strategy. How can we better serve our clients? How can we operate more effectively and efficiently?

  • Maybe the timing was coincidental, but Cimetrix also completed a major corporate organizational restructuring in early 2015. We involved ten of our key employees in an off-site workshop to map out the type of company we wanted to be going forward. Using an experienced coach and facilitator, we spent time reviewing and reaching agreement on “core” items including our shared vision and values, identification of our core customers, what is our promise to our clients, what is our long term “big hairy audacious goal,” and, equally important, what are the things we should stop doing. We identified the key functions of the company and the people with the best skills and experience to lead those functional areas. The result was a much flatter organization with opportunities for some of our most experienced engineers to assume more management responsibility. It was a very energizing and invigorating process that aligned the entire company on the path forward.

  • We also made the commitment to go through our product lines and address all outstanding issues. Over time, the number of product issues that were not urgent or high priority had been slowly building. We made the decision that in order to position the company for faster long-term growth, as well as to reflect our values and brand promise to our clients, we should refresh our current product lines and drive the number of outstanding issues down to zero. This strategy will greatly reduce the long-term costs of maintaining our product lines going forward, as well as further improve the quality and performance of our industry leading product lines. It was wonderful to see the cooperation of our different departments work through the full database of all reported issues and reach resolution. During 2015 we completed new Service Releases for our GEM and GEM300 product lines, which included SECSConnect, CIMConnect, and CIM300, that resolved all reported issues and significantly increased the test coverage for each product. Our Product Management group coordinated the effort to resolve all issues with appropriate stakeholders. Once the backlog of work was clearly identified, our Software Engineering group accepted the challenge and took great pride in doing the work they had wanted to do, but never had had the time, to improve our products and significantly increase the level of automated tests.

  • As part of the strategy to improve our customers’ experience using Cimetrix products, we expanded our customer support group into a “Client Training & Support” group with an enhanced staff of senior engineers. Their responsibility is to demonstrate Cimetrix products during the sales cycle, train new clients, and serve as proactive technical liaisons as our clients progress through the critical development cycle. Initial feedback from clients has been outstanding. In particular, I had one new client tell me that in his experience, it is natural for the level of support to fall off a bit after they place an order for a product. However, in the case of Cimetrix, we provided a very high level of attention and support during the sales cycle, and once they placed the PO, they were pleasantly surprised to see that the level of attention and support from Cimetrix actually increased. While they have had problems with other suppliers “over-promising and under-delivering,” their experience with Cimetrix has been overwhelmingly positive, as our software does what we say it will do, and we provide very responsive and passionate support with senior engineering staff.

  • We have been at the forefront of the new industry standards for “Interface A,” or its alias “Equipment Data Acquisition (EDA),” for over ten years. When these standards were initially conceived and driven by representatives from Intel and AMD, we thought these new standards made logical sense and would ultimately be adopted by the industry, but we had no idea how long it might take for these standards to be adopted. A large semiconductor foundry in the industry has become the leading user of EDA. Our strategy has been to work closely with this company and the large number of equipment makers that selected Cimetrix’ CIMPortal Plus product to meet the company’s requirements for EDA. While Cimetrix did this facilitation work on our own dime, we believe this investment has paid off handsomely as we’ve helped many of our clients achieve good success in this company's factories, and, as a result, we now have very appreciative clients all over the world that serve as solid references for Cimetrix and our EDA products. In parallel, our Sales and Account Management team has been evangelizing the benefits of EDA to other semiconductor manufacturers. The list of companies now implementing some aspect of EDA has grown to include industry leaders such as Globalfoundaries, Infineon, Inotera, Samsung, Toshiba, and TSMC. The biggest news was Samsung announcing plans for an EDA pilot project in 2016. In a recent briefing to local Korea-based equipment makers, it was reported that some large equipment makers such as Applied Materials and Tokyo Electron developed their EDA solutions in-house, but “most of the rest use Cimetrix products.” To respond to these opportunities, the Cimetrix Sales and Account Management group worked quickly to establish relationships, distribution channels, and local sales and support for Cimetrix products in Taiwan and Korea. While Cimetrix has great partners in Japan, we have learned that each country is different and customers prefer to receive support from companies within their own country, in their native language. Dave Faulkner and Alan Weber logged many miles this year explaining the best practices for EDA and establishing these very important relationships for Cimetrix, which we believe position Cimetrix to sell and support our products more effectively within these markets. In 2016 Cimetrix is scheduled to exhibit in industry trade shows in Korea, China, Taiwan, and Japan that we believe will lead to new clients in these growing markets.

  • Lastly, even though we are no longer required to publish SEC filings, we maintain the same high level of internal controls and fiscal discipline. The only difference is we don’t go through the seemingly endless quarterly reviews and narratives. The semiconductor capital equipment market is widely reported to have declined during 2015 and is expected to be flat for 2016. Cimetrix has noticed similar trends among our client base. During 2014, Cimetrix was profitable every quarter with total revenue in the $6 to 7M range with over $500,000 of adjusted EBITDA. For 2015, we continue to operate profitably on a quarterly basis and expect to have similar full-year financial results as 2014. We expect to end the year with close to $2M of cash and, of course, no debt.

Going Forward

Going forward, industry analysts predict a decrease in semiconductor capital equipment spending for 2016. Cimetrix has a number of irons in the fire that we hope will counteract the overall industry trends and enable us to grow next year. We have some major clients in adjacent markets that have the potential to contribute increased revenue. We also hope to get some traction from our efforts to add new clients and grow revenue in the Taiwanese, Korean, and Chinese markets. However, as we have learned over the years, it takes time to develop such new markets, so we are not planning to see large increases in revenue in the immediate future.

IMG_5431.jpg

By working closely with our clients in semiconductor and adjacent markets, we have identified a number of opportunities for new products. We plan to continue to invest in our current product lines for GEM, EDA, and Equipment Control, as well as look for opportunities to develop new products in conjunction with industry leaders.

If I sound excited about the future for Cimetrix, it is because I am. We have a great team here at Cimetrix and we added a number of solid new team members during 2015. While we have made great progress, we are never satisfied, and will strive for continual improvement as we pursue closer relationships with our clients, improvements in our efficiency and effectiveness, and above all, building great products that help our clients be successful and perform well for those they care about.

I want to thank our clients for the faith and confidence they have placed in Cimetrix’ products and team members, our employees for their passion, dedication and commitment, and our shareholders for their patience that we believe will ultimately be rewarded.

Topics: Semiconductor Industry, Market Trends, EDA/Interface A, Customer Support, Doing Business with Cimetrix, Cimetrix Company Culture, Investor News

To Better Serve Our Clients, We Will Be Discontinuing the Mailing of CDs and Hardcopy COAs for Runtime Licenses

We here at Cimetrix are excited that we are implementing a new process that will both benefit our clients and the environment. We have always delivered our software runtime license orders to our clients on CDs along with hardcopies of their Certificates of Authenticity (COA). Well, starting January 1st, we will begin delivering orders to our clients through emails that will include a digital COA for each runtime license and instructions on how to download their software.

As a company, we have always prided our self on providing the finest quality customer experience possible so we feel that this new process is just one more step in improving our service. There are a number of benefits of this change:

  • Most of our clients integrate Cimetrix’s software with their own software by using the Software Development Kit (SDK), most runtime license CDs are simply thrown away, which in today’s world is really not acceptable. By making this simple change, we will be eliminating thousands of pounds of potential waste.

  • We are constantly improving our software products and the latest version should always be obtained from our Support website (cimetrix.com/online-support)—not from a CD stored on a shelf somewhere for who knows how long. This change ensures that the latest version of our software will always be used.

  • The shipping cost and time delay by sending CDs by a carrier will be eliminated which will be a direct cost savings to you. 

  • The proof-of-purchase for our runtime license is the COA, not the CD. The COA number is what is used to obtain the license code using our online license generator. 

So the only thing we need our clients to do is to make sure we have an email address on file of where they would like their future orders sent. It’s that simple. We do foresee a period of adjustment for some clients, so for those that still want CDs and hardcopy COAs delivered, we will have this option available for an additional fee.

Of course, if you have any questions or comments regarding this policy, we are always happy to hear from you.  You can contact us at Orders@Cimetrix.com.

Topics: Customer Support, Doing Business with Cimetrix, Cimetrix Products

New Cimetrix License History Report

Posted by Cimetrix on Sep 17, 2012 2:49:00 PM

by Brett Horsley
Customer Support Engineer

The Cimetrix Support Team has developed a new web tool to provide active support customers with information about their software licenses.

You can access the new tool by logging in at the Cimetrix Customer License Generator page. Choose License Report from the pull down menu, and the page will populate your company’s Cimetrix software license information in a table.

Here is an example of what you will see:

License History Report

You will be able to view the status of  all of the licenses your company purchased over the last 12 months, including information about whether the license is unassigned or assigned to a specific computer. You will also be able to see the MAC ID for any assigned licenses. To ease your internal reporting and communications, you can also download the history into a CSV file.

At Cimetrix, we constantly strive to provide outstanding support for our customers. Let us know how we can improve our support or communications.

Topics: Customer Support, Cimetrix Products

Critical System Support - Semiconductor, PV, LED OEMs

Posted by Cimetrix on Apr 16, 2012 3:41:00 PM

by Brett Horsley
Customer Support Engineer

Back in December 2011 and January 2012, I posted a couple of blogs about the Customer License Generator. You can see what I wrote at New Web License Generator and Transfer a Cimetrix License To A New Machine. Our customers have been using the license generator and we have had a lot of very positive feedback.

One of our goals in developing the license generator is to improve support for critical systems.  When a hardware failure occurs on a vital piece of capital equipment running Cimetrix software, we know our customer – and our customer’s customer – cannot waste time waiting for a response.  Often replacing hardware or re-imaging a control system's operating system will require the Cimetrix license file to be transferred to new equipment. In past years,  Cimetrix customers would need to submit a license request via email and then wait for our license department to complete that request.  This process could cause significant delays, particularly if these requests came in during after-hours or on weekends.   

With the Customer License Generator, customers can request new licenses and license transfers online and receive their license file instantly, no matter what time of day they use it. Furthermore, even if the old license information is not-recoverable, the Customer License Generator can provide a 10-day demo license for a critical system, so they can get back online as soon as possible while we sort out any licensing paperwork. 

Customer License Generator

Getting equipment back into production can make or break business relationships.  Providing this level of support to our customers’ critical systems, whether they are on the production floor or in the lab, is important to us. If you are an existing customer, please try the Customer License Generator and let us know how you like it.

If you need help accessing or using our Customer License Generator, contact us at licenses@cimetrix.com.

Topics: Customer Support, Cimetrix Products

Transfer Cimetrix License To A New Machine

Posted by Cimetrix on Jan 4, 2012 8:19:00 AM

By Brett Horsley
Customer Support Engineer

A couple of weeks ago we talked about the  new Cimetrix web license generator, discussing how our customers with up-to-date support contracts can go on to the Cimetrix web site and get new licenses emailed to them in just a few minutes. We should also point out that customers can also transfer a license from an old machine to a new one from the same site.

When you go to the License Renewal site, which you can access using your Support login user name and password, you can apply to transfer the license using the old MAC ID and a new MAC ID.  You will also provide your email address and we will email you the new license immediately. You save time and effort, and you don't have to wait for any paperwork to go through.

When you go to the License Renewal site, you will enter the required fields in a form you see below:

Web Lic Gen Transfer 2 resized 600

You should have received the user name and password when your company purchased our SDK product. The license will be sent to your email address. If you are not an SDK customer, please contact the Cimetrix Licensing team at licenses@cimetrix.com, or call us at 801-256-6500.

Give it a try and tell us how you like the experience.  Any questions - just email licenses@cimetrix.com.

Topics: Customer Support, Doing Business with Cimetrix, Cimetrix Products

New Web License Generator

Posted by Cimetrix on Dec 21, 2011 2:39:00 PM

By Brett Horsley
Customer Support Engineer

We are working to streamline our processes at Cimetrix in order to improve our customer service. We now have a new license generator on the Cimetrix web site that we know will reduce the paperwork and throughput time to obtain new SDK and runtime licenses.

Previously, you had to email us the information and we would attempt to send you a new license within 24 hours. We almost always achieved that goal, but because of holiday schedules we sometimes took more than a day to send new licenses. 

Web License Generator resized 600

Now with the new web-based license generator, you can go to the Cimetrix web site and log in using your Support user name and password. Then you enter your COA (Certificate of Authenticity) number, MAC ID, and email address, and you will get an email with your new license.

It's fast and easy.  We have tested out the process and it works well, but, if you run into problems, send us an email at licenses@cimetrix.com.

Topics: Customer Support, Announcements, Cimetrix Products

Data Delivery to Cimetrix Support

Posted by Cimetrix on Aug 17, 2010 7:00:00 AM

The Good, The Bad, and The UglyThe Security

by Ryoko Fukushima,
Application Engineer

Email, Search Engines, Blog, Twitter, Ebay, Internet Banking. The Internet is deeply integrated into our everyday life and work. It makes it possible to exchange information and data almost instantaneously anywhere, anytime, and to anyone. The changes the Internet brought to our world have been irreversible, and the only way we can go is to forward.

But like any great human invention, it brought the good with the bad. Computer viruses, spam, malware, spyware, phishing. It is like opening the 21st century version of Pandora’s box. Cyber security has become an even more critical part of government and business infrastructure. However, tightening security against cyber threats actually can end up working against us. For instance, sometime our customers' network security unintentionally blocks harmless emails from Cimetrix with important attachment/data. Cimetrix believes that a smooth data delivery system is critical for our customer’s success.

This year, we began providing a data upload/download function to our protected customer support site. Data exchange is performed without compromising the customer’s network security.

To access, log in to the support website provided by Cimetrix with a valid username and password.

Support Website

Picture 1: Support Website Logon Page

After successfully logging in, a user should see the following page with Support Files Upload/Download link.

Support Website

Picture 2: Successfully Logged On

Clicking Support File Upload/Download directs a user to a file uploading page. Select a file to be uploaded by typing its complete path and name in File textbox or by selecting a file from Choose File to Upload dialog opened by clicking Browse button.

Next, click Upload button to upload the file to the support site. When file upload is complete, the user will see the newly uploaded file below the Browse and Upload buttons.The  user can download the uploaded file by clicking on its file name.

Support Website

Picture 3: Upload Page

If you have any problems using the support website, please feel free to contact Cimetrix’s support group (support@cimetrix.com).

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Topics: Customer Support, Doing Business with Cimetrix

Requirement Gathering - Don’t be Afraid to Ask Why

Posted by Cimetrix on Jul 22, 2010 10:06:00 AM

by Derek Lindsey,
Principal Software Engineer

I have a four year-old who is heavily into the “Why?” stage right now. He asks, “Why?” about everything. Several years ago when my daughter was that age, she had a neighborhood friend who was the queen of, “Why?” One time I decided to play along to see how many times she would ask why before she gave up. I don’t remember the original topic, but it had something to do with our deck. After a few iterations of her asking why and me trying to explain, I had reached the molecular level of describing deck stain. (She outlasted me, by the way.)

Karl Wiegers wrote an excellent book called Software Requirements. In chapter 7, he discusses requirements elicitation. He calls it “the most difficult, most critical, most error prone and most communication-intensive aspect of software development.”

Often times, preliminary discussion of requirements will result in the customer telling you what he thinks he wants rather than what he really needs. Rather than ask the question, “What do you want?” we should really be asking “What do you need to do?” Wants are usually expressed as design details (i.e. “I want the button to be green if the state is active”) whereas needs are the real requirements (i.e. “I need a way of letting the user know when the state changes.”)

To really get to the heart of what the customer needs, we can all learn from my 4 year-old neighbor and ask “why” several times to get to the molecular level of the problem that needs to be solved. Just taking the customer comment that the button needs to be green at face value is easy to implement, but doesn’t really meet the need of the customer. Asking why the button needs to be green and a few follow on questions easily uncovers the real need.

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Topics: Customer Support, Doing Business with Cimetrix

Connect. Chat. Collaborate.

Posted by Cimetrix on Mar 11, 2010 7:47:00 AM

by DeAnn Rowan,
Marketing

As a blog reader, we would like to ask you a question:

So….What do you think?

We’ve been at this blogging thing for 6 months (almost to the day) now. We’ve seen a lot of interest as the traffic to our blog posts continues to rise at a rapid pace. The entire Cimetrix team has provided contributions and feels passionate about the information that we have been sharing with readers.

Some of our most popular posts to date – and ones you’ll want to check out if you haven’t already - include a narrative touting the benefits of software frameworks, a comparison of the data collection functions of SECS/GEM and Interface A, and the answer to the “He Said/ She Said” game between equipment and host.

What have you found to be the most valuable?
What topics would you like to see discussed more? Or less?

We want to be a resource of information for you regarding the SEMI connectivity standards and their implementation. As you read through our blog, please feel free to ask questions or provide insight on the topics being discussed. We welcome your comments!

In addition to this blog, we encourage you to interact with us, and others within the manufacturing community, via various social media networks:

Cimetrix Twitter   Cimetrix Facebook   Cimetrix LinkedIn   Cimetrix RSS   

Use these avenues as an alternative means to ask questions, provide feedback, and stay abreast of any industry or Cimetrix updates.

Thank you for your continued readership and we look forward to future discussions.

Connect with Us on LinkedIn:

Also check out the resources page of our website which offers several white papers, presentations, and articles for download on these topics!

Topics: SEMI Standards, Semiconductor Industry, Semiconductor News, Customer Support, Doing Business with Cimetrix, Cimetrix Company Culture

Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance and Cimetrix

Posted by Cimetrix on Feb 5, 2010 8:59:00 AM

by Peggy Faulkner,
Assistant Controller

Sarbanes Oxley ComplianceWhen I confided to a long-time friend with whom I used to work in the financial arena at General Electric that I was thinking of returning to work after 20 years of raising a family, and that I would be doing Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) compliance work for Cimetrix, she gasped, and blurted, “I am SO sorry!” I was pretty sure her dismay was not an indictment of me returning to work, nor to Cimetrix—it was all about SOX.

When SOX was federally mandated in 2002, as a financial regulatory response to the Enron and Worldcom (and others) scandals, the intent was to soothe panicked investors and restore confidence that our public companies operate under sufficient financial control, oversight, and transparency. Revenue level or company size matter not—all public companies must comply, and compliance places a disproportionately heavier cost burden on small companies such as Cimetrix. Annual auditing must be performed by an independent, registered public accounting firm, and an extra layer of control in the form of reporting and certification is included in all SEC filings by financial management. Transparency to financial reports is now greater, and penalties for financial fraud or misrepresentation are harsh.

In an economic downturn, such as we are now experiencing, the cost of compliance becomes even more burdensome. Nonetheless, Cimetrix is fully compliant with all SOX regulations, and has been for some time now, due to the diligence of the Finance team. Long before I joined the company, measures were taken to reorganize, analyze, report, and verify financial data at a SOX-mandated level.

Currently, cross-training and report collaboration within the department ensure an additional level of review. Our goal this year is to become paperless—in keeping with environmental concerns, and our connection to the PV industry, perhaps?

Eighteen months after talking with my old friend, when she asks how things are going, I smile and say, “Piece of cake!”

Now, if I could just win the company Soup Cook-off!!

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Topics: Customer Support, Doing Business with Cimetrix, Cimetrix Company Culture, Investor News