Solomon Systech's key to successful productivity and quality management is its pioneering practices in a 'fabless' business model and its mature monitoring system. The semiconductor and integrated circuit (IC) supplier was named by the Hong Kong Productivity Council and its judging panel as the grand award winner of the productivity and quality category. Established in 1999, Solomon Systech has developed more than 363 IC products and has sold 650 million IC units in the past three years to global customers. The global sales and distribution channel of display panels and display systems are for use in mobile phones, computer monitors and flat-panel televisions. The fabless business model is a system whereby semiconductor companies outsource the fabrication process to semiconductor manufacturers. Solomon Systech subcontracts to 35 specialist manufacturers overseas to produce semiconductor and IC products for a wide range of display applications. Vice-president Lai Woon Ching said the fabless business model allowed the core management team, mostly based in Hong Kong, to focus on product development, delivery and yield improvement. 'The company outsources the manufacturing process to more than 30 factories and suppliers in Asia. Without sophisticated productivity and quality management it's impossible to pursue large-scale production with excellent integrity and accuracy that supports production growth and the company's sustainable development,' Mr Lai said. Once the company founders established the fabless business model, the self-developed quality delivery programme (QDP) was used to supervise the company's logistics development and quality management, with another system - manufacturing excellence programme (MEP) - used to manage product packaging, testing and wafer manufacturing. QDP includes a paperless product filing system, supply chain management, customer input, lot transaction tracking, order management and purchasing management. This e-business platform aims to enhance efficient collaboration between the company and customers, and manages the outsourcing supply chain. Mr Lai said the industry could share the structural design of the management system but the details must be self-developed to fit each company's operation. The benefits of the QDP also shows in the workflow. In the past three years, Solomon Systech's on-time delivery rate improved by 7.6 per cent, reaching 97.6 per cent in 2006. The order cycle time was shortened to less than a day. Mr Lai said the QDP enabled the outsourcing factories overseas to report data automatically through the computer system and the engineers based in Hong Kong could accumulate and analyse the information immediately. The MEP controls product quality for subcontractors and suppliers abroad. The web-based centralised information storage system provides global access to manufacturing data. Mr Lai said the system could improve efficiency. The electronic database also helps the engineers build up yield analysis tools and the tracking system for analysis history. The real-time SMS alert system replaced e-mail to notify engineers of analysis data that accelerated on-site debugging tasks with subcontractors from more than 60 hours to about 15. Mr Lai said this system was the key to shortening the time for debugging and the manufacturing cycle. 'We can better communicate with the clients and engineers through 'immediate information' through the internet. Standardisation of data format and production workflow with more than 30 subcontractors was, after all, a challenging task that could only be done by implementing MEP,' Mr Lai said. Because the companies that the firm worked with had different ways of doing things it took years to modify the system to effectively communicate with allied manufacturers. However, once the system was standardised it decreased the administrative workload and smoothed production. 'The company saved significant manpower used in data searching and analysis. The system is definitely worth investing in,' Mr Lai said.