The Internet of Things (IoT) is sweeping the manufacturing industry with the realization that connecting people, machines and information can make production smarter. One large manufacturer decided to make this realization a reality. They were going to turn 550 plants into connected, digital factories in four years.
While this is a huge investment, it pales in comparison to the benefits and opportunities of the connected factory. With an IoT solution in place, the manufacturer would be able to improve production machine up-time; shorten new product introduction cycles; improve production quantity and quality; and generate new revenue and drive innovation from basing decisions on product-in-use data. They predict $500 million in savings in year one and $1 billion in annual savings starting year two.
To put their IoT vision in motion, they turned to WWT.
First, our Manufacturing Industry Team met with heads of different lines of businesses across the organization. This consultative engagement allowed our experts with backgrounds in the manufacturing industry to understand nuances of each specific business unit (areas for improvement in production, details of their internal/external supply chains, etc.) as well as the business impact stakeholders wanted to see from having connected factories. These discussions ultimately proved key to developing a converged IT/OT reference architecture that could scale appropriately, enable consistent supportability and align to the needs of the business.
After meeting with heads of business, members of the Manufacturing Industry Team and our solution architects worked with the organization and our partners to create a general reference architecture that will be applied to the 550 sites.
The architecture itself enables high degrees of availability, resiliency, agility and security. Networks have no single points of failure and can be provisioned quickly and securely. Additionally, computing and virtualization is designed with no single points of failure, enabling new industrial operations systems and applications to be quickly provisioned and made available to plant staff and their leadership.
The sensitive nature of manufacturing operations requires a holistic view of security to be taken while “connecting the unconnected.” We therefore built the reference architecture to include network segmentation, identity services for people and machines, perimeter firewalls and intrusion prevention, as well as industrial-layer firewalls to protect SCADA traffic. These protections give plants complete security, from industrial machines and operators to the sensitive applications and information accessed by various users and leadership.
With business requirements and a reference architecture in hand, our manufacturing industry consultants and technologists began visiting different plants to conduct site surveys. During these visits, they discovered current and desired operational states, the current state of the IT infrastructure, and they assessed both against the converged IT/OT reference architecture. This resulted in site-specific designs and budgets as well as documented use cases for leveraging the site design to improve production operations.
To date we have conducted seven site-specific surveys with many more to come as the manufacturer moves forward with its 550-site plant modernization initiative. By combining industry and technology expertise and engaging consultatively with C-level stakeholders, corporate IT and plant engineers, we’re bridging the gap between IT and OT groups and articulating each group’s needs and goals.
The manufacturer now has a reference architecture that can scale securely with infrastructure improvements that will inherently result in improved production availability and output with a strengthened network. Ultimately, this yields substantial profitability gains for the organization and increased returns for their shareholders.
With an architecture in place that connects all data points inside the plants, the manufacturer is now talking with our Big Data Team about how best to collect, analyze and visualize data for better decision-making. As part of this, the customer is actively exploring an IoT-built, cloud-based analytics platform, which we will help integrate across their organization.