Product Lifecycle Management in Play

Photon Dynamics Inc. in San José, Calif., now uses a PLM system from Agile Software to manage product information -- but not the manufacturing, sourcing or support segments of the product lifecycle. "We use other products for those phases," says CIO Lee Penning, who rolled out the new system to 160 users in May 2006. "We're at the beginning of the PLM journey."

A bad experience with a previous product fueled a certain cynicism about PLM at Photon Dynamics, which manufactures inspection and testing equipment for flat-panel displays made by customers such as Samsung Electronics and Sharp Corp. But the company still needed a system capable of reliably tracking tens of thousands of parts and all their associated changes and revisions.

"Once you get this implemented, the business benefit comes in having truly one source for your data," Penning notes. "It really streamlines inventory management. It's not a point solution; it's a strategic, all-encompassing change."

Given the competitiveness and constant change in the consumer electronics industry -- where customers change glass screen sizes every six months -- Photon operates within a "very short design cycle" that generates a steady stream of new parts numbers, explains Leay Heck, manager of engineering services. "We customized the Agile Software [product] to meet our processes, which were manual. Now we've got more visibility of change management," she adds.

"Just having the traceability of changes and access to all the documentation has been a huge improvement."

"We really emphasized the training on the initial rollout," says Brent Jones, manager of business applications and one of eight IT staffers at Photon. "By the time we finished the implementation, we had such a good footing with the training it helped out a lot with the perception of the project as a success."

Heck recalls how she knew the rollout was a success after one of her engineers stopped her in the hallway and said, "'I like it so much it made me want to cry.'"

Maryfran Johnson, is the founding editor in chief of CIO Decisions. To comment on this story, email editor@ciodecisions.com.

This was first published in May 2007

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