Implemention Technology
Systems Integrator
  KPMG
Business Intelligence
  MicroStratey DSS/Agent and
    DSS/Web
  SAS Enterprise Miner
  SGI MineSet
Data Extraction
  Informatica PowerMart
Warehouse Engine
  NCR Teradata
Hardware
  NCR WorldMark 4700 Server
  HP 9000 K580
  Amdahl Servers
  Compaq Servers

The benefits of data warehousing are well known in numerous business applications from marketing to decision support ­ but typically not manufacturing or quality control. Western Digital Corporation, a provider of information storage products and services, recently launched its first data warehousing system in the manufacturing arena, a major initiative developed to help our company identify and manage quality issues faster than ever before.

Western Digital's data warehousing solution is a single, product-centric knowledge repository providing comprehensive product information and data mining capabilities accessible by employees worldwide via the corporate intranet. It is also the first Web-enabled data warehouse deployed in the discrete manufacturing world. The system has made Western Digital the leader in setting new levels of quality standards for the hard drive industry.

Competition Drives Innovation

Western Digital designs and manufactures hard drives for personal and enterprise-wide computing. The globalization of the hard drive industry has had a profound impact on our company and other major manufacturers. Increased competition and reduced product life cycles have challenged profit margins across the board. Today, success in this competitive industry demands new ways to reduce product development costs, improve quality and add value to customer relationships.

The impact of quality issues becomes clear when assessing their potential magnitude ­ Western Digital's hard drives each comprise more than 200 components manufactured by outside suppliers, and we produce well over 100,000 units per day. Finding the root of quality issues requires the ability to trace separate parts not only to their vendors, but also to their lot. Western Digital recognized that the right disciplines, built on a foundation of aggressive product management, were critical success factors.

Despite rigorous implementation of quality-focused business processes ­ Western Digital has achieved ISO 9000 certification company-wide ­ our disparate legacy systems did not always allow us to quickly address quality issues. We recognized that the right information system could help us achieve two important goals: to immediately identify and handle quality issues and to improve future products.

Proof-of-Concept Projects Gain Internal Support

Launched in April 1999 and working closely with a team of KPMG consultants, Western Digital developed the data warehouse and its product-centric data storage system that houses information about the full life cycle of each of its hard drives ­ from manufacturing and testing to shipment and returns ­ individually traceable by serial number. KPMG provided project management, developed functional requirements, built manufacturing data collection and analysis applications, developed an enterprise intranet architecture, integrated data from a dozen disparate systems and managed 20 subcontractors to achieve the production solution.

From the beginning, the project had support from top management, including our chief executive officer ­ an essential requirement for leading-edge, large-scale data warehouse projects. To further build internal support and momentum, we demonstrated its power with two proof-of-concept exercises.

First, the project team built an OLAP application that captured component traceability data at the time of manufacture via the shop floor control system at our research and design facility in San Jose. Next, we built an interim data warehouse that demonstrated its ability to capture drive-build data along with shipment information. Since one of Western Digital's most immediate needs was the ability to track the current status of hard drives that had already been shipped, these pilot projects provided excellent proof points that rallied support.

Working closely together, the project team then set out to build the production system which combines elements of electronic commerce, customer management and data warehousing. KPMG provided a customized implementation methodology that drew on all of these disciplines, built on a foundation of aggressive project management ­ an additional critical success factor.

Data Warehousing in Action

Western Digital's data warehouse is built on a high-performance, three-tier client/server environment. Its foundation is an NCR Corporation WorldMark 4700 data warehouse server that stores Western Digital's information in a Teradata data warehouse database. The WorldMark machine is an eight-node system with 32 CPUs, 16 gigabytes of RAM and three terabytes of total disk space. Each night, a six-way Hewlett-Packard HP 9000 K580 processor and an Oracle database are used to collect data from twelve sources at Western Digital sites in Malaysia, Singapore, California and Minnesota.

After it is staged, data transformation routines are run using Informatica PowerMart, which creates load files. The load files are moved to the NCR Teradata platform, using bulkload and fastload utilities. Post-load processing routines are run against the data in the Teradata database to perform integrity checks. These automated processes are then documented in reports that monitor data volumes and referential integrity checks.

To provide problem resolution facilities, the data warehouse uses a group of Amdahl servers running Microsoft Windows NT and the DSS/Agent online analytical processing (OLAP) tools from MicroStrategy. The Amdahl servers pull down data from the NCR machine; users access it from their desktops using DSS/Agent (for power users) or DSS/Web, for "anytime, anywhere" Web-based access. After the user is authorized and a secure connection is established, he or she can easily build a query using a graphical report writer. Virtually any information can be extracted from the data warehouse ­ information from a day of suspect production, ship-to data or a specific head-media combination. The MicroStrategy DSS products build a SQL query that's issued to the Teradata database via ODBC. Very sophisticated users can further analyze the data using SAS Enterprise Miner for statistical analysis and MineSet from Silicon Graphics for data visualization.

In addition, the data warehouse solution includes Compaq servers, which manage the exchange server, messaging and other infrastructure functions.

Data Warehouse Delivers Strong ROI

Already, Western Digital's data warehouse has provided strong, quantifiable return on investment (ROI). We've found that one of the system's most valuable aspects is its ability to empower employees to quickly access information they need. For example, a customer calling from a PC manufacturing facility with a defective hard drive can learn within minutes from a Western Digital account representative if other drives in that shipment may be defective. We can also trace the cause of drive failures in the field.

Already, our customers are demonstrating how highly they value this level of service. They have been quick to recognize the new "high bar" that Western Digital has set in the quality arena and its positive impact on their operations.

The Closed Loop of information

Equally important, the data warehouse provides Western Digital with "closed-loop" feedback mechanisms that allow the company to address today's quality issues to positively impact future business performance. For example, in the product development area, hard drive field performance parameters can be correlated back to components, manufacturing environment and factory test parameters. This gives us a way to detect inherent flaws and design them out of future products. In addition, armed with precision data from the data warehouse, we are negotiating with suppliers to build better, more reliable components.

Western Digital's Executive Briefing Center

To showcase this breakthrough use of data warehousing technology in discrete manufacturing, we have established the Western Digital Executive Briefing Center in Irvine, California. This facility demonstrates the capabilities of the data warehouse solution, how the technology is being used, how problems in inventory are identified and how Western Digital has benefited from the detailed data generated from the system. Customers, suppliers and industry colleagues are visiting the Executive Briefing Center to find out how they can benefit from this exciting new application of data warehouse technology.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Information Management content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access