Founded in 2011, Aledia is a startup located in the Grenoble area. Aledia is currently developing prototypes of the next generation of LED screens using a disruptive technology. At the end of 2020, Aledia had raised funds for a total of 120 million euros. Thierry Valentin is in charge of the project of prototyping tools for the screens before their industrialization. Jira Software and SmartView were at the heart of the project. This testimony was collected by Mathieu Truchot, Atlassian consultant at SmartView, on this exceptional project at all levels.
Mathieu : Let's start with Aledia's news before talking about your project. In 2020, Aledia has managed to continue its growth despite the crisis.
Thierry : Indeed, we have gone from 20 to over 100 employees in four years. Our technology is the result of research conducted at the French Atomic Energy Commission(CEA). Our core business is LED technology for screens.
Mathieu How is your LED technology innovative?
Thierry : The LED light in blue, then we add filters of color. But our technology produces each color thanks to filaments of some microns of diameter. The density obtained is exceptional (thousands on some square centimeters of screen).
Mathieu : What is the status of your industrial development?
Thierry : Our technology is reaching maturity. Everything is in phase to launch the product in 2022. The last stone in the building: the construction of the production site in Champagnier (Isère).
The choice of Jira Software
Mathieu Why did you add the Jira software "brick"?
Thierry : We follow the production of the screen prototypes thanks to Jira Software. At the beginning, we used Excel and email. We quickly saw its limits. Then a first activity management tool arrived: Productys Explorer. The software is easy to use. It gets complicated when you have to add manufacturing workshops and production steps. Productys Explorer didn't have the flexibility required. Then Jira came along.
Mathieu : Why Jira Software?
Thierry Caroline Simonin knew the ticketing tools. It is her who launched the project. Then, we did a lot of development (scripting & automation) to adapt Jira to our needs and our environment.
Mathieu : What are you using Jira Software for?
Thierry Jira is a step towards production and a real production management tool. Jira is used to initiate the shift between research and development (R&D) and engineering. The project was an opportunity to ask the right questions upstream of this industrialization. SmartView helped us by adapting Jira to these very specific activities. The objective was to structure the system while maintaining the flexibility that the R&D teams need.
Mathieu : Flexibility and use from multiple sites...
Thierry Yes. An anecdote: before Jira, users had to leave the clean rooms at the CEA to access the right network. We like to consult Jira wherever we are, with the right security rules.
From R&D to engineering with Jira
Mathieu After the prototypes, will Jira also be used in the Champagnier production plant?
Thierry Our business is semiconductors. In factories, production is controlled in real time by the MES (Manufacturing Execution System). The MES software manages the equipment, the machine breakdowns, the links with the employees, etc. Jira is not an MES.
Mathieu : But Jira remains the first step towards the factory?
Thierry : Yes, Jira is half the way to the MES. We are working on each of the MES bricks. Jira has enabled us to rationalize each manufacturing stage in the workshops. This process has triggered a change in mentality: from research to industrialization.
Mathieu : Do you have other uses in mind for Jira?
Thierry : Jira can be used for other applications:
- In the plant: during MES deployment. MES is a mature technology, but heavy to implement.
- Project side: for project management and classic ticketing.
Jira for the management and follow-up of the production of the plants
Mathieu You work in innovation but you remain cautious...
Thierry : Yes, I only believe what I see. We started with your visit and a discussion: how we see things, what Jira brings. Then, we built a "Test Case" (pilot project) of the Aledia world with Jira. It was a simple version of the current Jira. Even before signing with SmartView, you showed us what the product could do for our business. This demo was a key factor in my choice.
Mathieu : What made you choose Jira Software at that time?
Thierry : We have identified 3 or 4 software. SmartView has a different approach. They really took the time to understand Aledia's needs and context. It was SmartView's seduction work that made us choose Jira.
Mathieu : Once the choice was made, your implementation of Jira evolved a lot...
Thierry : Yes. From the start, we were far from the standard Jira operation, with many specificities linked to our activity. We were sometimes light on the specifications, but that was the occasion to dig together the needs and the best solutions to answer them. I really liked the support throughout the project. By the way, I have new questions for you!
Mathieu : Jira was already shooting at the beginning of the summer at your headquarters in Echirolles. How did you go about putting it into production?
Thierry : During the first demos, after a few weeks of project, Jira did not suit the users. We had to change our minds and quickly create a second version of the tool that was simpler and more ergonomic. I really appreciated the support of the SmartView team during this project redesign.
Customer feedback on the deployment of Jira Software for production monitoring
Mathieu You deployed Jira without any prior experience. What if you had to do it again?
Thierry I would do it again without hesitation for two reasons:
- We were able to set up and rationalize our production flows with a view to setting up an MES. This was an opportunity to question our processes and work habits, notably by eliminating unnecessary steps.
- I would go further with users from the first release. People don't have time: "This requires three clicks, but I need to do one." I would refine the presentation to users as early as the project scoping phase. Our users' business is semiconductor. Culturally, IT tools are not their thing!
Mathieu Aledia uses Jira Software for production monitoring, it's a world away from ticketing. We conducted the first meeting to express our needs. Then the confinement started... was working remotely an obstacle to the project?
Thierry : To understand our jargon, to see on site how we work, it is essential. Covid and confinement do not help! We would have liked to have more opportunities for meetings between the SmartView team and the users.
Mathieu : Any other tips on how to move forward more easily with Jira?
Thierry : All maintenance or adjustment tasks on Jira directly affect our business. So SmartView support continues to be critical. For a classic use, I was told: "Jira, it's half a day of support per week". But when you customize Jira, you have to run the automations, the scripts and support the users. We had minimized the resources needed. Again, we don't use Jira in the traditional way.
Project monitoring by SmartView consultants
Mathieu What did you like best about SmartView?
Thierry : In brief:
- When we went back, SmartView continued to follow us.
- Mathieu and Manuel remained very willing to accompany us, even during the holiday season.
- SmartView even helped us out while waiting for the support contract to be renewed.
- SmartView does a real tracking of the activity and we feel supported.
- Some of our requests were very convoluted and that didn't stop us from moving forward. All open items were resolved.
Mathieu A last word?
Thierry The LED industry had not changed anything for 30 years. Today, our work on prototypes is decisive. Aledia is moving the lines. We reduce the size of LEDs and we increase their brightness thanks to nano wires. We have an offer that holds the road and we are in the race ...
Mathieu Manuel and I had a lot of fun doing the project. We thank the Aledia team for their trust.
The eye of the Jira administrator
We faced two challenges on this project:
- The sector of activity. This was our first experience in the semiconductor industry, which is very specific and far from the IT field we are used to working in. In order to understand the needs, we had to immerse ourselves, or at least, we did our best to understand the different activities of the production cycle, even if some activities are still very mysterious for us (especiallyepitaxy).
- Production cycle flexibility. By the very nature of this prototyping phase, the content and scheduling of the production steps of each production batch are potentially specific. We could not therefore use the classic Jira Software workflows. We reversed the classical way of working by representing the different production steps by specific types of sub-tasks, which could be easily reordered by the users. The major difficulty was then to coordinate and automate the validation and progress of these subtasks, using the ScriptRunner and Automation for Jira plugins.