The manufacturing industry has a long history of investing in innovative technology to help manage produc demand. Indeed, with a recent study revealing the majority of manufacturers feel under pressure to ensure the shortest possible time to market for new products, a growing number are engaging in digital transformation initiatives to more readily adapt to changing business requirements.
As part of this digital transformation, and in a bid for greater flexibility and efficiency, many are now moving services and systems off premise and into the cloud. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Resource Management (CRM) systems in particular are being migrated to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms such as those provided by SalesForce.com, SAP and Oracle; a shift that is set to have an impact on aspects of a manufacturer’s business such as customer service, sales management and employee productivity.
Many of these SaaS services rely on device connectivity; between laptops, mobile devices and applications, for example. Ensuring rapid access to a particular customer record or order status, for example, can mean the difference between a sale and a competitive loss. This is just part of a wider reliance on connectivity as manufacturers look to ensure their global supply chains operate at an optimum level.
The advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), therefore, has been a major leap forward, and one that will help manufacturers address challenges around complex processes and deeply integrated supply chains. Indeed, we’re beginning to see an extension of the supply chain into services ranging beyond simply the manufacture and provision of products. A major US manufacturer, for example, provides its retail customers with a bespoke order management application which allows them to arrange delivery of products once they’ve come off the line.
No room for outages
Of course, technology innovations come with challenges as well, especially when you consider its potential for increasing IT complexity in highly data-driven, industrial environments. Indeed, the manufacturing sector relies heavily on IT systems and services to handle everything from order processing, production line automation, shipping, supply chain logistics and accounts to Customer Relationship Managment (CRM), Computer Aided Design and Manufacturing (CAD/CAM) design and even Domain Name System (DNS) availability, which is vital for the performance of web-based apps. As manufacturers invest in advancements in software defined data center (SDDC) technologies, SaaS for select application services, and cloud technologies for yet other business needs, managing performance becomes ever-more complicated. With so many moving parts and individual vendors involved, there can clearly be no room for outages.
By way of illustration, consider a global automotive manufacturing company with plants scattered world-wide. They had recently consolidated their data centers to achieve lower risk and reduced time-to-market for Cloud services and application deployments. Post migration, they expected to reduce rollout of new services from several months to a few days. Simultaneously, they were improving their design and build application services across the distributed production plants that connected back to the data center. Depending on the vehicle the plant produces, an hour of disruption can delay the completion of 10 to 20 vehicles with a varying cost value of between $20,000 to $40,000 each. The math is simple — Failures or disruptions in the communications from the plants to the data center for their design and build app can have a multi-million-dollar daily impact.
Furthermore, outages such as this could also affect a manufacturer’s reputation. Should it prove impossible for one of the plants to complete production of vehicles that day, their authorized dealers may not receive committed inventory and may lose business opportunities (sales) as a result. Lack of inventory equals lack or delay of sales. Optimizing service performance in the age of IoT is, therefore, imperative.
Assuring service delivery requires end-to-end visibility to provide the insights needed to pinpoint the root cause of performance degradations anywhere along the service delivery path, so that any issues can be quickly resolved.
To gain the insight they need for full and effective infrastructure across their data centers and manufacturing plants, IT teams would benefit from employing a smart data solution, which will enable them to maintain visibility throughout the entire IoT lifecycle, from testing, through the monitoring and analysis of live traffic, to network orchestration and automation.
By pro-actively monitoring applications and services across their networks– manufacturers will be better positioned to triage any issues that occur, assuring the availability and performance of their services and applications, avoiding costly outages, and maintaining high levels of efficiency and quality.
It may be undeniably complex, but with greater visibility and assurance, manufacturers can enjoy reliable connectivity, and maximise the opportunities offered by the IoT for optimising all of their manufacturing services.