New manufacturing system boosts productivity and production at Western Digital
"The .NET-powered MITECS III has enhanced manufacturing processes, improved productivity, slashed operating costs and enabled WD Thailand to expand output to meet increasing demand." - John Yu, Director, Information Technology, Global, Western Digital (M) Sdn Bhd. Western Digital (WD) is one of the world’s leading hard drive manufacturers, employing about 25,000 people worldwide. WD is recognized as one of the lowest-cost manufacturers in the global hard drive industry. However, its Thailand facility was running an ageing manufacturing execution system that was prone to system crashes, was slow in terms of response time and costly to maintain. WD decided to replace the Workstream system by developing its solution on the Microsoft® .NET platform. The new MITECS III system runs on Microsoft® Windows Server 2003, SQL Server 2000 and SQL Server Reporting Services. MITECS III provides faster response times to queries while real-time information enables production planners to make faster and more accurate decisions. It has boosted productivity by allowing expansion of production without a corresponding increase in production data entry operators.SituationWestern Digital (WD) is a data storage pioneer and a leader in the hard drive industry. WD was founded in 1970 and began designing and manufacturing hard drives in 1988. Headquartered in Lake Forest, California, it employs approximately 25,000 people worldwide. Its manufacturing facilities are located in California, Malaysia and Thailand. The company’s storage products are marketed to leading systems manufacturers, select resellers and retailers under the Western Digital and WD brand names. WD has proven its ability to respond to changing market needs by delivering to new markets the same quality, reliability and ontime delivery that has made it successful in the computing markets. WD is now meeting new needs as the markets seek smaller, highperformance hard drives for a variety of handheld and other consumer electronics products. WD prides itself as one of the lowest-cost manufacturers in the global hard drive industry and continuously seeks new ways to improve efficiency and productivity. At its facility in Thailand, WD saw the opportunity to improve productivity by using the latest innovative technologies. The facility had been acquired from Read-Rite some years earlier and makes components such as head stacks, sliders and head gimbal assemblies which are used in the production of hard drives. For about a decade, the facility had been using Workstream, a manufacturing execution system that is fundamental to reliably operating complex manufacturing processes. The Workstream system ran on Compaq (DEC) Alpha OpenVMS systems and utilized Oracle as its database platform. "The system was very old and was developed in COBOL! It is text-based and the front-end was not easy to use, especially for beginners," says John Yu, Director, Information Technology, Global, Western Digital (M) Sdn Bhd. And because the system was using dated technology, WD had only one resource in IT who could understand the Workstream system. Though the system was adequate in the early years, it was no longer the case especially after the WD acquisition which resulted in the business growing by leaps and bounds. The system had problems coping with the rapid expansion in production. “We were beginning to see problems such as system crashes and slow response time to retrieve data. When that happens, we often had to depend on expensive US-based support to resolve the problems,” says Yu. The critical role of an MES system means that the production lines at WD Thailand virtually grind to a halt whenever the Workstream system crashes. This has a knock on effect and eventually impacted production at its Malaysian facility, resulting in delays and financial losses. The cost of maintaining the Workstream system was also high. “The hardware maintenance was expensive and we had limited access to spare parts and hardware. Software consultants charge significant sums of money for annual license renewal,” he adds. Another bug-bear was the inflexibility of the system which allowed only limited customization. “Some customization may involve changing the Workstream structure and this is not allowed.” SolutionWD decided the time was right to replace the Workstream system. Instead of acquiring an external solution, WD decided to develop its own manufacturing execution system using the Microsoft® .NET development platform. This was a logical step given that WD had successfully developed and deployed a similar system (MITECS) on the Microsoft platform at its Malaysian facility several years earlier. “We chose Microsoft .NET for its user friendliness, resource availability, faster development and cost effectiveness. We didn’t consider other platforms,” states Yu. “We were confident .NET’s capabilities would enable our development team in WD Malaysia to quickly develop a new system to replace Workstream. Developing our own system is more cost effective than buying an off-the-shelf product,” he adds. Work on the project started in February 2005 and the new system, named MITECS III, was officially rolled out in February 2006. The development was done with two developers from WD Malaysia and one from WD Thailand, and the actual coding process took about three months. “We had minimized the developer resources for this project but they could still successfully deliver a mission critical system on schedule,” says Yu. The new web-based system runs on Microsoft® Windows Server 2003, SQL Server™ 2000 and SQL Server ™ Reporting Services. Development was done with Microsoft .NET Framework version 1 and Visual Basic .NET. The system’s production, database and reporting servers are all based at its Thailand facility. With MITECS III, users can now extract the data directly from the system without using any third party tools. “Data latency has also improved while real time data improves production planning and decision-making,” says Yu. The new system has real-time dashboards which provide the management with detailed reports on production such as yield, output, quality and defective parts. The system also issues SMS alerts to key WD management personnel on any arising production-related issues. Being a web-based application, production information is now accessible by authorized users from all WD sites. The SQL Server-powered system also provides a significantly faster response time to queries by users. “With SQL Server, data replication to the reporting server is much faster than the previous system. Response to queries now just takes a few seconds,” he adds. MITECS III uses the more user-friendly Windows-based interface rather than the previous text-based interface. In addition, the application runs entirely from within the browser and no special configuration is needed on the user's PC. ------------------------------------------------------------------BenefitsSpeeds up decision makingMITECS III provides real-time information and reports which enable production planners to make faster and more accurate decisions. Its highly efficient reporting system helps the Thailand facility to keep pace with WD’s impressive growth as one of the world’s leading hard disk drive manufacturers. Previously, the Workstream system could not produce timely production-related reports as these could only be generated an hour after the end of a 12-hour shift. “With MITECS III, planners don’t need to wait till the end of the shift as they can view the reports in real time,” says Yu. Such reports provide the planners with necessary insight to make the right decisions in response to constantly changing business demands. The new solution supports charting, allowing engineers to easily analyze product performance and product defects on a daily and weekly basis. “Being able to get reports and analyze information quickly is critical for accurate planning. It gives the management in-depth knowledge of the manufacturing operations which it did not have previously. This helps the plant produce only what is needed by its customers,” Yu states. Improves productivityMITECS III has given a tremendous productivity boost to WD Thailand, allowing it to rapidly grow its production without increasing the number of its production operators to perform transactions and report generation. The solution has reduced manual processes such as lesser keystrokes by operators while a more powerful system has slashed response times for transactions on the production lines. Under the old system, operators had to wait up to half a minute for a transaction to be processed. “With MITECS III, it just takes a split second!,” Yu confirms. All these improvements translate into greater efficiency and productivity, allowing output to be expanded with existing resources. “WD’s business continues to grow rapidly. The productivity improvements brought by MITECS III means we don’t need to increase headcount doing transaction and report generation to cope with the rapid growth,” says Yu. Reduces wastageThe deployment of MITECS III has resulted in cost savings which helps WD achieve its goal of being among the world’s lowest cost hard drive manufacturers. For example, the system provides alerts about defective products to production staff so that they can take corrective action. It also has a sophisticated monitoring system which detects problems in specific machines and automatically shuts it down to prevent it from producing defective products. “This helps to drive down wastage. It’s better to scrap defective parts early rather than after the whole drive is produced.” Yu explains. WD has also drastically reduced operational cost by eliminating the old system’s software and hardware maintenance cost. “Microsoft has a relatively low priced hardware and licensing cost. Compared to other platforms, its hardware requirements are not extremely high and it is not proprietary in nature.” Yu acknowledges that .NET is a very cost effective development platform. “We only needed three developers to successfully develop such a mission critical system. That’s really impressive,” he adds. “We are proud we can produce at a low cost, and running MITECS III on the Microsoft platform is crucial in helping us achieve this goal,” says Yu. Productive development platformThe host of user-friendly tools and resources available under the .NET Framework and Visual Studio .NET makes development work much easier and faster for WD’s developers. “Its an all-in-one solution and debugging of codes is very easy. With .NET, our developers are more productive as they can churn out more code in a lesser time!,” says Yu. There’s no shortage of resources available from the Microsoft-based development community to help his developers. “There are online forums where they can easily get advice on certain development problems,” he explains. “We are proud we can produce at a low cost, and running MITECS III on the Microsoft platform is crucial in helping us achieve this goal.” John Yu, Director, Information Technology, Global, Western Digital (M) Sdn Bhd. The user friendly platform also facilitates system enhancements requested by the production team. “Sometimes, we can even deliver it by the end of the day. With that kind of speedy response, it certainly makes them very happy,” he adds. Geared for growthThe .NET platform has now become an integral component of WD’s development initiatives. Using Microsoft .NET technology, WD has successfully developed several applications such as the Integrated Time Attendance System (ITAS), a web-based time attendance tracking system that allows employees to view their own attendance online. “Our experience with MITECS III and ITAS shows that .NET allows developers to build powerful applications more quickly and at a lower cost than other platforms,” Yu says. In addition, it also delivers increased system security and reliability with cutting edge technology. The worth of the Microsoft technologies is attested to by the WD Thailand management which is “happy” with the MITECS III system. “The .NET-powered MITECS III has enhanced manufacturing processes, improved productivity, slashed operating costs and enabled WD Thailand to expand output to meet increasing demand,” Yu concludes.
OverviewCountry or Region: ThailandIndustry: Information Technology
Customer ProfileWestern Digital is one of world’slargesthard drive makers. WD is headquartered inLake Forest, California, and employs25,000 people worldwide. It has facilitiesin California, Malaysia and Thailand.Business SituationWD wanted to improve productivity and efficiency at its Thailand facility which was running a manufacturing execution system that was prone to crashes, had slow response times and costly to maintain.SolutionWD developed a new manufacturing execution system on the Microsoft .NET platform. The MITECS III system runs on Microsoft Windows Server 2003, SQL Server 2000 and SQL Server Reporting Services.Benefits
“We chose Microsoft .NET for its user friendliness, resource availability, faster development and cost effectiveness. We didn’t consider other platforms.” John Yu, Director, Information Technology, Global, Western Digital (M) Sdn Bhd.“We are proud we can produce at a low cost, and running MITECS III on the Microsoft platform is crucial in helping us achieve this goal.” John Yu, Director, Information Technology, Global, Western Digital (M) Sdn Bhd.For More InformationFor more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234 in the United States or (905) 568-9641 in Canada. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to: www.microsoft.com/malaysiaFor other case studies in this series, visit www.microsoft.com/malaysia/business/casestudiesFor more information about Western Digital products and services, call (+603) 7877 6777 or visit the Web site at: www.wdc.com