GeoMetrix Helps Lam Research Corp Manage Certifications and Validate On-the-Job Competencies

Headquartered in Fremont, California near San Francisco, Lam Research Corporation is a leading supplier of wafer fabrication equipment and services to the worldwide semiconductor industry.

The company has been number one in plasma etch market share for nine consecutive years and maintains the largest installed base of single-wafer wet clean modules.

With offices in North America, Europe, China, Japan, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan, Lam has up to more than 7,000 employees worldwide.

Three training centers worldwide — located in California, Taiwan, and Austria — are responsible for providing the skills and qualifications needed to meet company and customer needs. The company also provides training to customers for its products and processes.

When Lam decided it needed a learning management system (LMS) in 2004, the company had been using a custom database built in 1994 to manage training records.

“To get in a class, you had to email, call or fax a single training coordinator,” noted Steve Nestle, Technical Training Manager for Lam. “We had huge problems created by time zones. Our technical certifications were all done by hand.”

Lam began the search for an LMS that would eliminate enrollment bottlenecks caused by telephone and email communication over world-wide time zones, accurately document employee training for safety compliance regulations and streamline its Field Engineer Certification efforts.

“We needed to enable online registration for our classroom training and enable web-based training on our intranet,” comments Steve. But Lam also did not want to train every end user on a new system. “The solution had to be so intuitive it did not require training.”

In the end, Lam chose an LMS from GeoMetrix Data Systems because of its Web interface, intuitive operation and benchmarking with other companies in the semiconductor industry. The LMS now manages learning for thousands of employees and clients in more than a dozen countries and administers e-learning, instructor-led training and live e-learning.

“We are doing things today that are unimaginable without an LMS. Management asks for data about learners, courses, and certifications and the response is always, ‘Yeah, I can get that for you.’ Before, I just said, ‘You’re kidding, aren’t you?’ and my life was a lot easier.”

Two critical areas for the company are certifications and safety, and the LMS has become a critical component for managing both areas. Lam employees deal with safety issues daily, and the LMS has provided the necessary tools to help mitigate risks.

“We recently faced a dangerous employee safety issue. We were able to quickly develop a classroom and web-based training solution for about 800 employees worldwide and gave everyone one month to complete it. [GeoMetrix] enabled us to deploy this solution and track our progress to meet our training objective on time.”

Lam had industry-standard certification programs in place since the 1990s. But as noted earlier, the tracking of these was paper-based before acquiring an LMS.

The software manages certifications using a Programs inventory where courses and skills can be grouped as requirements for comprehensive degrees or certifications. When a program is assigned to a learner, the LMS automatically enrolls the learner into all courses and assigns all skills.

But Lam found that the programs themselves were not providing validation and that the records were insufficient to ensure that skill levels were being met.

As happens in many training organizations, Lam’s standard training programs and business processes did not develop sufficient expertise in the field to rapidly solve complicated system problems.

“This led to longer escalation times and repeat escalations,” said Steve. “Additionally, the lack of a development program for Field Engineers caused longer development times for new/junior Field Engineers and inconsistent levels of knowledge amongst all Field Engineers worldwide.”

This situation was clearly at odds with Lam’s mission, vision and values.

“Our mission is dedicated to the success of our customers by being a world-class provider of innovative productivity solutions to the semiconductor industry.”

Lam’s vision is to be number one in customer trust and number one in market share and its core values are achievement, ownership & accountability, mutual trust & respect, honesty & integrity, innovation & continuous improvement and teamwork.

“To be true to our mission and vision, we needed to validate task performance and proficiency among our worldwide Field Engineering force. The solution to this problem had to meet our mission, vision and values with ownership and accountability being key components.”

Lam set the following objectives for Field Engineer Certification: guarantee a known level of Field Engineer competency that met CSBG business needs; formally integrate certification achievement into the Field Engineer career path; and accomplish faster time to resolution of customer problems.

“The strategy was to develop and implement a credible and practical certification program based on Field Certifiers and Certification interviews and to directly tie technical certification to Field Engineers’ career development.”

Competency features added to the software in 2008 offered Lam the opportunity to track on-the-job (OTJ) competency validation and field certifications. The existing Programs inventory was customized to accommodate the new validation process.

“GeoMetrix was able to make modifications for our specific requirements and provide the functionality we needed to implement the new workflow.”

The new Field Engineer Certification Program had mandatory training courses defined for each certification level, and key performance tasks (skills) identified for each level.

“Field Certifiers were identified in each region and at each major customer site, and recognized and rewarded. Certification program owners created a pool of scripted questions and answers for final certification interviews. And finally, the certification program was integrated with the Field Engineer career path.”

Now, when an engineer is assigned a certification program, LMS automatically shows the OTJ validation requirements in the online employee learning plan with reviewer and validation status.

“Reviewers receive Task Completion Notices and can record validations and comments online. Reviewers can also reassign tasks, reject tasks or record when a new Field Certifier had been assigned.”

The engineer’s knowledge and expertise of the task or equipment is scored based on open-ended questions, the form is completed and confirming emails and scores are distributed.

This customized workflow has enabled Lam to meet its objectives for its Field Engineer Certifications. Recent vendor and ISO9000 auditors have commented on how effective they believe the new programs at Lam to be, noting that they thought the validation process was unique in the industry.

“The auditors were blown away by our validation process.”

In addition, Lam’s inclusion in the 2011 Training Top 125 for this initiative is further evidence of the success of the new process. The Training Top 125 Best Practice & Outstanding Initiative Awards Program honor organizations that excel in creating a thriving culture of learning. The 2011 Top 125 program focused on tying training to achievement of strategic corporate goals and showing demonstrable results. The new certification program and LMS OTJ validation workflow is a testament to Lam’s mission, vision and core values.

But this is not the only innovative way that Lam is using its LMS. The company has done numerous customizations and modifications to the software over the years.

“Once you understand the design and page constructions, it’s easy to make modifications. However, it’s important to know one’s limitations and call in help from client services or tech support in order to get things done right.”

Steve described the staff at GeoMetrix as knowledgeable, friendly, thorough, patient and helpful.

“They are a knowledgeable team that works well together to support one another. During a recent upgrade, I was able to spend hours on the phone with them and work through each page change. That type of support is hard to get these days.”

Does the LMS provide return-on-investment for Lam Research? Steve said yes.

“[The LMS] is a tremendous value. The cost for additional users is fair and the annual support is very affordable. When I tell people in IT what our support plan costs they are speechless.”

What does the future hold for learning management at Lam? The introduction of a comprehensive Performance Management System to the GeoMetrix product line has opened a range of new possibilities and moving to the new GeoTalent LMS from GeoMetrix is also in the works.

If the past is any indicator of the future, we can expect a whole new set of innovative applications based on ground-breaking ideas.

For more information about Lam Research Corporation visit


Case History: Lam Research Corporation

“GeoMetrix was able to make modifications for our specific requirements and provide the functionality we needed to implement the new workflow… They are a knowledgeable team that works well together to support one another.”