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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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Boost Your Digital Manufacturing Transformation

Recently after traveling to Dubai for the IoT World Forum, it struck me that many manufacturers are still looking for that prescriptive roadmap to understand how they can transform their operations digitally. Everyone understands that digital disruption is a reality, no matter what type of products you manufacture or where you are located. The question is not when but how to respond and plan.

And, with the added complexity of industrial security comes serious risk s if you don’t do anything. One statistic cites: The average hacker is in your factory for 6 – 9 months waiting to steal your intellectual property. And the average time before an intrusion is detected is 6-9 months. This means that they have had freedom to look around and probably have free access to all of your information.
This truly drives home the point that it is key to ensure that your factories and facilities are not just connected but secure.

This new age of digital manufacturing is expected to drive dramatic business improvements for companies transitioning from legacy automation systems. Manufacturers can create a foundation for a highly integrated and intelligent decision-making value chain Read More »

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IoE/IoT Globetrotting Part 2: Off to CiscoLive!

Having recently returned from weeks of event keynotes, customer roundtables, briefings and engagements (plus a few culinary adventures) in Greater China, I’ll start there with a few insights and observations. Despite one of the sharpest slow-downs in the Chinese manufacturing sector in recent history that have continued to shrink for the third consecutive month, I sensed an optimism and determination to persevere that haven’t waned, nor has China’s march to global leadership of manufacturing GDP. A recent report from Rhodium Group indicates the number of American workers employed directly by Chinese companies increased >five-fold over the last five years to >80,000 in 2014.

Automation and quality are key tenets driving China’s current growth strategies in manufacturing and the industrial sector. For Cisco this is creating continued demand for our Connected Factory portfolio of architecturally integrated solutions Chet Blog 6.4as a leap-frog approach to the legacy automation predominating U.S. and European factories. I certainly found to be the case at two conferences I keynoted—the 5th Annual Manufacturing Supply Chain Summit in Shanghai and the Industry 4.0 / Manufacturing Cloud Forum in Shenzhen—that many massive manufacturers are urgently implementing Internet of Things (IoT) and Cloud / Data Analytics projects as part of their competitive business strategies and differentiation. This key take-away and perspective that China is leading other top manufacturing nations on adoption of industrial IoT is validated by a recent analysis compiled by Infosys Ltd.

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