Product Data Management at Hewlett-Packard Company

reproduced from the Engineering Data Management Newsletter of March 1994

HP's Product Data Management (PDM) program was launched in 1989 as the Number One priority of its corporate Manufacturing Council which recognized that most divisions were having a difficult time managing the electronic data that describe how they design and build products. As in many companies, the move to a CADCAM environment resulted in a proliferation of electronic data. Compounding that problem were increasing regulatory requirements (such as ISO 9000), consolidation of operations and services, the emergence of standards (such as STEP and CALS), and the geographical separation between R&D and manufacturing.

HP saw PDM as a necessary component of its strategies to move forward from organizational silos to spider web organizations, to replace bottle-necks with speeding bullets, to capture the invention instead of re-inventing the wheel. HP's major corporate initiatives to reduce product time-to-market require efficient and controlled information management. For concurrent product and process development across multiple, geographically-dispersed organizations to become reality, information must be accessible and accurate. Change control is critical. Long-term, HP also saw savings from eliminating all non value-adding product data management activities.

HP's PDM program is directed by a group of 30 people representing all of HP's major product groups. According to Susan McCrea, who heads the group, "The reason we had to invest in PDM was that the world is changing. We simply couldn't do business the same way as in the past. We have product development teams on different continents, and they need to exchange information in a real-time manner. We also have products developed in one location and manufactured at several other locations. We're doing concurrent engineering in a distributed environment. What we wanted was a way to have all of the right information at the right time and in the right form all the way through the product lifecycle".

HP's PDM team evaluated 3 data management systems in 1989. Among the main requirements, the solution had to be flexible enough to be used during product design, and not just after release. It had to be easily customized, affordable and able to evolve as the process evolved. The PDM team recognized that neither software nor optimized processes alone would solve the problems HP faced. Processes would need to be re-engineered, and data management technology employed in support of business objectives.

Each HP division was free to select a product from any vendor. A majority of divisions chose to go with a solution based on DMS, which was HP's commercially available offering. DMS is purely a data management system, positioned as a CAD department-level solution. It was selected as the base technology upon which the new solution -WorkManager - would be architected. WorkManager was introduced in early 1992 and is positioned as a data and process management system at the workgroup and enterprise levels. More than twenty divisions are currently installing PDM. Full deployment in 45 divisions is expected by the end of 1994. Typically it takes four to eight months to implement PDM in a division. Divisional and group strategies for implementing PDM vary according to specific business needs. Experience shows the most effective implementations are those preceded by the formation of empowered, cross-functional teams initially tasked to model the existing process.

Users get all sorts of benefits from PDM. Connie Krous, a documentation specialist at HP's Spokane, WA Division, uses PDM to manage documents such as schematics, printed circuit designs, video capture, assembly documentation, mechanical design, firmware and software. She says that PDM enables her organization to do more work with fewer people. Other divisions report similar findings. PDM allows them to free up about one-third of the time of the data/document management workforce, allowing these employees to spend their time adding value to products in other capacities.

Another benefit comes from better data management. Pat Herron, a new-product development engineer at HP's Communications and Test Equipment division in Spokane, WA, says PDM is changing the way people work - for the better. "We started using CAD tools at several sites at the same time without any sort of data management tool at all. Because of that, we now have multiple data models of the same part and it has caused problems. We weren't able to share models back and forth between sites without potentially corrupting each other's data models. With PDM, engineers can now store the same model in different configurations depending on how they want to use them and can protect their models from being corrupted by others".

PDM frees up filing space. As Chris Sands says, "The best thing about PDM is that there are no more hard copies. Some of our drawings were big D or E size, which we used to have to haul around the division and eventually file away. No longer. We just release them and it's done. We don't need to have a paper copy." Many divisions have eliminated paper-based release and authorization processes. With PDM, they store all product data in one central location, called the electronic vault. The vault ensures that all master documents and records of historical change remain absolutely accurate and secure. With all product data in the vault it's faster and easier to find information. According to Pat Herron, "All of our data is in one place. I can locate data instantly, rather than having to search through drawers and cabinets for a single drawing. I can also log in to another division and conduct a search of their database". One result, he says, is that designs and information tend to be reused. Being able to leverage existing data, and make better use of existing parts is helping the divisions to shorten their product development cycle.

Susan McCrea claims that while the cost and space savings resulting from the use of PDM are appreciated, the really strategic savings come from the reduction in cycle time. In one case, the time to create a document was cut from 30 hours to 6 hours. Other examples include reducing revision time for a document from 1 hour to 5 minutes, and cutting the time to view a document from 2 hours to 2 minutes. The same type of time saving - from hours to minutes - was realized on turn-around time for internal document updates. Great savings are also being realized when documents need to be updated by several divisions worldwide. The time to transfer engineering change information from Spokane to Scotland has been cut from 10 days to 1 day.

Susan McCrea reports bad news and good news from her experience. "The bad news is there's no silver bullet. It took us 50 years to get into this mess, and we're not going to get out of it overnight. The good news is that we're seeing measurable returns - lower production costs, reduced time to market, and improved product and process quality - in relatively short periods of time, typically one to two years. Potential users should go ahead and get started. Don't worry about having the entire plan laid out because you're going to learn as you go along."

Key success factors for PDM implementation were found to include building and maintaining project sponsorship and managing organizational change. High-level management support must be maintained for what is a long-term project. Buy-in and ownership must occur at the local level, and must be based on business need. As cross-functional processes are examined and documented, issues of departmental charter, responsibility, incentives, accountability and measures will be raised. These issues can not be avoided, and must be constructively addressed.

The above article 'Product Data Management at Hewlett-Packard Company' is reproduced from the Engineering Data Management Newsletter of March 1994.


Copyright (c) 1998 John Stark