How to Implement Successful Connected Enterprise Strategy to Enable Smart Manufacturing

IIoT

“If you build it, they will come.” That famous movie line sticks in the minds of many. While it was an inspirational message for building Kevin Costner’s Field of Dreams, it’s not an ideal approach for finding success with your smart manufacturing strategy. Perhaps this is why a large number of these types of initiatives fail, or why large-scale alignment never takes root.

 

Applied Technologies’ vision is to help your manufacturing and distribution facilities achieve success.  In 2018, we were proud to welcome industry veteran Ray Zimmermann to the team, who brings more than 35 years of experience working for corporations such as Anheuser-Busch, Container Corporation of America, and Olin Corporation in the successful implementation of their automation and smart manufacturing programs. The proven process Ray brings to each situation helps to ensure alignment, enthusiasm for the initiative, and measurable indicators that help everyone involved see the progress.

Ray is a vocal champion of the “top-down” approach for the development of a connected enterprise roadmap. He recently shared his insight on how to build a successful plan.

What is a typical automation scenario, and why does it not serve an organization well?

 

Ray: In many industrial facilities, automation is viewed as a technology issue. It’s a very functional and siloed / equipment centric approach in which a piece of software or hardware is introduced to address a very specific situation. At that point, the solution is primarily technology focused… (how do we get this to run). In other cases, the folks on the plant floor – the operational technology (OT) team – are considering how to make processes more efficient and streamlined. They’re focused on one piece of equipment, one process or one department. Traditionally, IT and OT operate separately because they report up through different arms of the company: IT reports through the financial arm and ultimately through the CFO, while OT reports through plant management and engineering.

This approach results in limited success because of three major factors:

  1. It’s fragmented and typically reliant on the scope of a single piece of technology.
  2. It’s a bottom-up situation that’s not aligned with the overall strategic objectives of the organization.
  3. It’s not embraced in a large-scale way across the organization.
How can a comprehensive, top-down approach help to ensure success?

 

Ray: Throughout the course of my career, I’ve been involved in several automation and smart manufacturing initiatives for major corporations who have taken a top-down approach. When this scenario is in place, the chances of achieving success are quite high for a variety of reasons:

  1. The initiative is being driven by leadership to address overall business goals. At that point, they know where they want to go and have created a long-term vision around how to extract business value from the technology
  2. The discussions revolve around how to leverage technology to arrive at this vision. Technology in and of itself will not address overarching organizational objectives, fix organizational challenges, or drive a company into the future. In fact, a technology-driven initiative is a narrow and sub-optimal approach.
  3. It creates departmental alignment and collaboration, removing the barriers between IT and OT and fostering a sense of shared ownership in achieving the business goals.
  4. It ushers in culture change in most organizations, empowering teams at all levels to play a part in changing the way business processes are run.
What are the key steps that must be taken in order for this to happen?

 

Ray: The starting point involves examining your business needs. Where are the gaps? Where does the organization need to go (or how does it need to evolve) to address your market in the future? Some of these will be larger and longer-term in scope, but there are some more digestible initiatives that you can begin chipping away at within the next 12-24 months. The leadership team must identify those with the biggest payoff and put a business change management plan and technology plan in place to start getting some traction.

Next identify a group of people that will play a role in envisioning what the future of your organization looks like. What is your future state? What will you be doing, who will you be serving, and what does my product look like five years from now? The people close to the product and processes will know where these gaps are.

Once the group has identified the gaps, begin assessing the gains. In other words, if we fix these issues, what’s it worth to the organization? You can then begin working on the details in terms of the processes and technology required to arrive at the solution. This brings forward the things that IT people like to talk about, and integrates the things that OT teams like to work on.  This is the part in the process that bridges the gap between the two disciplines, and creates cooperation towards a common, organization-wide goal.

What are the dangers of not embracing top-down enterprise strategies?

 

Ray: One thing has always been true in the world of manufacturing – you must always be in reinvention mode. If you don’t, another company will. I like to use the analogy of the buggy. You don’t see buggies anymore because someone came up with a better product: the car! And someday, cars will be replaced by something else. Or, your competitor may identify a way to make your same product better, cheaper, or quicker, causing you to lose market share. Top-down strategy helps the organization to envision what’s next, mapping out how the organization will get there and identifying what processes and technologies will make it happen.

If that doesn’t wake you up to the importance of top-down strategy, consider this. It’s ultimately more expensive to do it the other way around. A bottom-up approach does not breed success and the chance of choosing the wrong (or outdated) technology solution is high, or the solution chosen is not supported across the entire organization.

A key point to consider: It’s very difficult to end up with a Connected Enterprise and realize the value of Smart Manufacturing  from a Technology perspective with Disconnected Business processes and or Organizations.

Those who embrace this process and forward-planning will be the leaders of tomorrow while the rest risk being left behind – or going the way of the buggy.

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Throughout our conversation, Ray highlighted the fact that this process doesn’t happen overnight. The great news is that he knows how to lead an organization through a successful rollout. In our next blog, he’ll share that information and show you how to make the process digestible for your team.

To start the conversation regarding your IIoT requirements, please contact us today at 636.274.8030.  

Applied Technologies and the Digital Transformation

Applied Technologies and the Digital Transformation

 

Digital Transformation

 

We often hear that we live in a data-driven society. Platforms like Google and Facebook collect our information, and retailers like Amazon and Walmart know our shopping habits and preferences. Some consider it an invasion of privacy, while others see it as a convenience. Regardless of an individual’s position on the issue, data is king when it comes to business. It helps businesses gather intel into your operations, financials, and yes, your customers’ wants, needs and habits.

Data powers business today. This is what the digital transformation is all about. Applied Technologies is the first stop to help make the transfer and analysis of data possible.

We recently sat down with Eric Frietsch, VP and General Manager at Applied Technologies, to discuss the firm’s 30 years of experience with the digital transformation. Eric explains what it means, provides insight into how your business can benefit, and outlines the role that Applied Technologies plays in all facets of the digital transformation, including network setup, connectivity, data centers, security and more.

 

What is the Digital Transformation?

This is a hot topic in IT right now, but quite frankly, the digital transformation is nothing new. At Applied Technologies, we’ve been involved in various iterations of the digital transformation for more than 30 years. At its core, the digital transformation is about shifting data and doing something with it in order to provide a solution to a business challenge, or to enable a business goal to be achieved. Applied specializes on the front end of this process, setting up the framework, hardware storage, and networking for the transfer of data to take place – taking the data out of machines and devices and routing it to where it needs to go. Applications are then laid on top of the data, allowing for analysis, identification of patterns, and gathering intel to make good decisions that drive better business results. This typically means improvement in productivity, profits, performance, safety, or any other KPI important to the business.

 

How did Applied Technologies get its start in the Digital Transformation

We began 30 years ago in the automation space, which is very geared towards operational technology, or OT. The other half of the company was about networking, connecting devices and people together. Since then, we’ve added partnerships with companies like Cisco, Microsoft, NetApp Rockwell, and many others to offer a holistic digital transformation solution, bridging the gap in the information technology and operational technology space. Our technology partnerships allow us to apply unique solutions geared to each business spec and set of goals. We may be installing similar hardware and software in a number of companies, but it’s configured differently for each vertical market we serve and each set of business objectives they’ve set out to reach.

 

How is the Digital Transformation different today than it was 30 years ago?

Today, the transferring and routing of data is much more sophisticated and complex. We’re connecting more devices – and types of devices – than ever before. Wireless devices, especially in a manufacturing environment, are becoming a bigger piece of the overall network. The speed at which data must travel, as well as how quickly users need to access that data, continues to increase. And of course, security of the overall system is an ongoing concern for every business.

 

 

Tell us more about the role security plays.

There are several pillars to consider in any discussion about security. You have the network and the individual devices to safeguard, as well as the physical security of the system and facility. But a big factor today is social engineering, a situation in which someone portrays him or herself as part of the organization in order to gain access or trust. Sometimes, this can take months. Other times, it’s an email that looks legitimate enough for a team member to click and expose the entire network. The great news is there are network security tools we leverage here at Applied Technologies to help our clients avoid these situations.

 

What industries do you see leveraging their data and systems well?

Every industry from retail and commercial to manufacturing and gaming is working to identify the best ways to leverage their data to help the organization reach their goals. Right now, the concept of “smart manufacturing” is very big. This allows manufacturing and industrial facilities to share real-time data from the shop floor to create better efficiencies and drive profitability. Commercial facilities are transferring data on a variety of issues to help better maintain, stock and improve productivity. The gaming and retail space uses location data and facial recognition technology to track their customer’s habits, wants and needs to provide the right offer at the right time to either keep them on-premises longer, and keep them coming back for more.

Applied Technologies has played a key role in helping to develop the strategy for the infrastructure needs to propel these initiatives, as well as installing and maintaining the systems to make this all possible. This can include the design and installation of data centers, implementation and oversight of managed services, security and uptime monitoring, and putting all of the hardware and software in place to facilitate the secure, efficient transfer of information.

Our experience in top floor and shop floor integration goes back to our origin.  Applied Technologies is a French Gerleman technology company.  Together, we can provide manufacturers a complete Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) solution. Our team can not only answer the technical questions but can assist with reviewing the financial and operational benefits of IIoT.

 

Where and how does this process typically begin?

In some cases, a client will call upon Applied Technologies to help them solve a specific business problem through technology. Perhaps they realize they’re losing money on a certain product line, or are having challenges with customer retention. We partner to work through the situation with them, identify the key metrics to monitor, and build a holistic technology solution with the hardware and software needed to move the needle on those metrics.

In other cases, the client has identified their business objectives and reach out to the Applied Technologies team to implement the technology needed to support the initiatives.

Whether the customer has a clear path in mind or they don’t know where to start, we walk through that process with them hand-in-hand to build the solution they need to make their business run more smoothly while increasing profits.

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We enjoyed our time discussing the digital transformation with Eric, who encourages readers to begin their journey if they haven’t already done so.

In closing, we ask you to consider what your data could be doing for you, and how you could be leveraging it to grow revenue and profits. It’s OK if you don’t know where to start, but know that you have access to a wealth of information that could be driving your business into the future. The team at Applied Technologies is here to help you make sense of it, and build the technology infrastructure you need for better business results. Please reach out to the team at sales@appliedtech.pro or 636.274.8000 with any questions you may have.

Why Perform a Network Assessment?

There are many circumstances that can drive a company to need to assess their network devices, topology, connectivity and security posture. Some of most common are:

 

General Inventory:

Organization grow over time, acquire other companies. Many times, devices are often added on the fly and configured ad hoc to get things working. In these situations, focus can be more on getting things done and there can be less thought on things such as strategy, security and compliance. Documentation can often suffer as it can be given a lower priority in fast paced environments

Problem Resolution:

As problems come up, it can be astonishingly difficult to overcome when networks have grown organically over time and documentation is lacking.

Compliance:

Many companies have industry specific regulatory bodies that govern how they must operate. Having a solid network design with detailed documentation is always the foundational requirement to comply with these regulations.

Network Upgrade/Refresh:

This provides an opportune time to “start with a clean slate” mentality. Knowing what its really going on in your network (both hardware and software) not only provides a solid justification for capital investment but ensures that you are making the right capital investments. Overall design with performance, redundancy and security considerations with be your roadmap for the future.

For more information contact us at sales@appliedtech.pro or call 636.274.8000 to discuss your network assessment requirements with one of our Account Managers or Practice Leaders.

Why Should You Assess Your Structured Cable Requirements?

Do you know if your network infrastructure is in line?

 

Often structured cable is only looked at when something goes wrong, or if it’s being expanded. As such, physical network infrastructure tends to grow naturally and lose uniformity. Updating your structured cable can seem like an overwhelming project to undertake, but is important for efficiency and uptime. Thankfully, Panduit is here to help you with that first crucial step: getting an assessment.

Why do You Need an Assessment?
You can’t make decisions if you don’t know what you’re dealing with. Your network may not be failing you yet, but it could be causing a loss of efficiency, and waiting until it does fail will result in downtime. The best way to be prepared is to stay informed. Maybe you don’t need to take immediate action yet, but the only way to know for sure is to have an assessment.
Companies often have “top floors” and “shop floors,” which may have their structured cable configured differently. This can cause delays in troubleshooting issues, security risks, downtime and overall loss of revenue. When companies have multiple locations, this issue becomes increasingly important to resolve.

What’s Involved in an Assessment?
Panduit partners with you to assess your physical network. They have extensive experience and in-depth knowledge of industry standards and guidelines to assess the current state of your structured cable requirements, and help you create a plan moving forward.

Assessments generally take one to three days, depending on the size and previous documentation available. Beyond an initial facility tour and their final presentation of the assessment, your team will not be interrupted. Panduit has a list of partners and a full team of engineers to help with assessments. All you have to do is sign off approval for them to take relevant photos for their report.

Both a detailed report and light assessment are provided. These can range anywhere from 30 to 200 pages including photos. These include outlines, diagnoses of issues and recommendations for solutions or a redesign if warranted. These are presented to the main company stakeholder, and Panduit encourages Informational Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) representatives to attend the presentations.

Taking the Next Step
The information provided is intended to be comprehensive, not overwhelming. That’s why Panduit walks alongside your company to create benchmarks for a long-term implementation strategy. You’ll have a roadmap going forward that both your IT and OT departments can collaborate on. Panduit can also recommend the best products for your situation.
Every situation is different, but Panduit and Applied Technologies are devoted to helping your company recognize and address network issues to help improve your daily processes and prepare for the future.

For more information contact us at sales@appliedtech.pro or call 636.274.8000 to discuss your structured cable requirements with one of our Account Managers or Practice Leaders.