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Closing the Knowledge Gap in Manufacturing: Converge IT with OT

Recently, the article “Making IoT Pay in Manufacturing” in Forbes caught my eye with a few interesting statistics from a recent study:

71% of manufacturers say IoT will have a significant impact or some impact on their business over the next five years (24% and 47% respectively)

Yet 24% have no company wide understanding of IoT.

While the majority of manufacturers see the value of IoT, there’s a significant knowledge gap in how to best plan for and capitalize on these technologies.

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3 Secrets to Going Digital from Flex’s CIO

What are the secrets to a successful digital transformation? We’re exploring that in our Going Digital podcast hosted by Peter High, President of Metis Strategy, Author and Keynote Speaker. Peter recently interviewed Gus Shahin, the Chief Information Officer and Senior Vice President of IT at Flex (formerly known as Flextronics) to understand their success. Note – this transcript has been edited due to space limitations.

Flex manages supply chains and manufactures products for companies – from large OEMs like Cisco to startups. They procure, manufacture, distribute, and repair products for their customers with about 100 factories in 40 countries.

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Jump Start Your Connected Factory: Recap of the Recent #CiscoChat

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Manufacturers are challenged with how to start digitizing their factories. Many have told me it is not inertia or budget holding them back, but being overwhelmed or unsure of where to start. Yet the value that awaits them is great – connected factories can boost profits by up to 19 percent (according to our latest Manufacturing Thought Leadership Study).

To help manufacturers navigate the complexity, I hosted a #CiscoChat with Brandon Lackey, Manufacturing Vertical Business Development Manager at Cisco, and Lorenzo Veronesi, Analyst at IDC. We discussed the benefits of a connected factory, the roadblocks manufacturers face, and how to take the first step. Many industry thought leaders and luminaries joined us and it made for an animated discussion.

If you missed the chat, the full recap is here, and I will share with you a few of the highlights:

We kicked off the chat by asking: How are manufacturers making factories more connected and intelligent?

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A Simple Way to Get Your Factory IoT-Ready

Before coming to Cisco, I worked as CTO for an irrigation system manufacturer. We were building a cloud-based commercial irrigation system and we needed an improved ERP system for the back-office transactions. My goal was to move us from the on-premise system that was architected when Ronald Reagan was president to a new cloud-based system. However, the stability of our Internet connection at the plant was a significant barrier to this type of change.

One of my first days on the new job, our internet access at the factory was down and we blamed it squarely on our ISP. They denied any issues with the service. One evening after everyone had left the building, I took a walk through the factory and into the engineering lab. There I discovered a closet with a cobweb of Ethernet cables connected to three unmanaged 6-port switches and a wifi router – all most certainly purchased at the nearby Best Buy. We later discovered that one of our employees had plugged a VoIP (Voice over IP) phone into one of those switches near her desk and created a network loop that took the entire plant network offline.

This type of issue is all too common in the typical factory. Most factories are not Internet of Things or IoT ready. In the network, many companies have delivered on basic Ethernet connectivity and may actually have managed switches; however, they have not connected the IT and operational- technology networks or deployed the network management tools and technologies to be truly “plug and play.”

Typical factory wireless deployments are isolated from the central network and are not location ready. Finally, security in the factory is typically limited to an industrial DMZ (demilitarized zone). Rarely are factories deploying the network- level security that includes identity policies and secure remote access tools that can give management the confidence that the plant-level data can be securely extended to the cloud. Many manufacturers want the benefits of a truly connected factory as described in this video:

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#CiscoChat: Jump Start Your Connected Factory

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A new year- and time for new initiatives and a chance to fast start your competitiveness as a manufacturer. According to our recent Manufacturing Thought Leadership Study, digital manufacturers who have connected their factories and production facilities are driving up to 19% more profits (over 10 years) than their ‘unconnected’ counterparts.

What are some of the issues holding manufacturers back from undertaking networking and automation, wireless or security initiatives in their factories? Many have told me it is not inertia or budget, but sometimes being overwhelmed and unsure of where to start. In today’s typical factory , there are so many “things” to connect (including machines, robots, sensors and more) as well as processes to allow manufacturers to reap benefits and address challenges that more traditional models and operating practices were not able to do. The challenge is identifying and prioritizing what area to tackle first.

We all know that major gains in overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), reduced downtime, and manufacturing flexibility can be achieved with a factory that is digitized and connected. By providing visibility to machines and processes, Read More »

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