The world of manufacturing is experiencing yet another revolution. This year’s manufacturing buzzwords, terms such as Internet of Things, Predictive Maintenance, and B2B2C make it sound like we live in a Star Wars movie, where tech can be manipulated with an effortless “Jedi gesture.”
Not everything is about tech, though. On the other hand of the innovation spectrum is sustainability, and manufacturing, being the usual suspect when it comes to all things related to planet preservation, is, once again, on the main stage. In response to increasing regulatory pressure, thousands of “sustainability manager” positions have sprung up this year.
While manufacturing may be one of the main frontiers for technological competition and accountable sustainability, it’s still the bottom line that decides who stays in business and who goes under. Namely, manufacturers put extra emphasis on efficiency (a cost reduction in 1% can mean hundreds of millions in extra profits, given enough volume) and error protection (98% of organizations say that a single hour of downtime costs $100,000.)
Given the fact that most manufacturers don’t yet use magical forces to produce their products, still relying on “good old” I.T. systems to do the heavy lifting, we’d like to remind manufacturing executives and decision makers why updating the I.T. infrastructure is not an optional extra, but an absolute priority.
Every Penny Matters: Control Your Production and Infrastructure Costs
I.T. systems in most any business, let alone manufacturing, are directly tied to the company’s variable costs. Due to heavily automated and digitized manufacturing systems used today, I.T. has become the veins of the modern production company, enabling the flow of most internal and outbound business operations.
While we’ll get into the importance of up-to-date I.T. systems for lowering the costs of production and internal operations, it is the costs of installing and maintaining the I.T. infrastructures themselves that are often overlooked.
For one, I.T. systems become more energy-efficient with every iteration. With every hardware update, less resource-intensive materials are used; smarter circuit architectures are employed. With every software update, the programs learn to use the hardware more effectively. It is important to note that efficiency can be hurt significantly due to incompatibility of the hardware and software, which means that if even one part of your I.T. infrastructure is a few years behind the rest of your digital body, it can cause your energy costs to rise. And, when sophisticated manufacturing processes rely on equally complicated digital systems, energy costs can quickly rise beyond negligible.
The other important consideration is the setting up costs of the systems. Many companies, in order to save money, purchase a mix of “stock” programs (as in not custom-tailored.) We won’t even talk about how much chaos and inefficiency this brings to the company’s inner operations; we’re just going to say that buying a bunch of programs that could be combined into a single customized solution is rarely cheaper. In part, this is due to the fact that many software providers only work on a subscription-based model, which can combine into a pretty hefty monthly obligation.
As for the broader impact of I.T. infrastructures on the company’s overall cost level, things get a little more obvious here.
Since pretty much every business order and the ensuing operation go through the digital infrastructure, it is important that the software is intuitive and easy to use—so that employee A doesn’t have to read a 50-page manual to send employee B a memo—and functions properly—so that the memo actually reaches the recipient. Needless to say, keeping your software up-to-date is crucial to enable these qualities.
Avoid Disaster through Timely Updates
Just as important as cost control is error prevention. It’s no secret: old I.T. systems tend to break down.
The digital brains of your company run into all sorts of trouble when not updated properly. We’ve already mentioned the fact that new software sometimes doesn’t work properly with outdated hardware solutions—and vice versa—which is a strong recommendation for updating the entire system at once, or at least conducting thorough compatibility tests before checking that box. Installing annual software updates on 15-year-old machines is almost as short-sighted as playing hot potato with a time bomb.
New software and hardware iterations don’t just protect you from I.T. failures—they safeguard your internal processes from human error, too. Smarter verification mechanisms, more user-friendly interfaces, and more regular backups make your production process that much harder to sabotage, and even if that happens, up-to-date I.T. systems will give you a way to quickly reverse the mistake.
Just what kinds of disasters and mistakes are we talking about? We’re talking about orders missing, incorrect product specifications, inaccurate quota reports, data leaks… All of those things can hurt your relationships with your partners in commerce and end customers, or directly cut into your quarterly profits.
New iterations of I.T. systems also take into account regulatory action. With the advent of GDPR, all software suppliers were tasked to review their legal and functional protocols to ensure they comply. Keep in mind that using a non-GDPR-compliant piece of software is your responsibility, not the software provider’s. (Also keep in mind that even if your company operates in and serves only American markets, there may still be regulatory overlaps in your supply chain or other business partnerships that mean you need to be GDPR compliant.)
We understand that all manufacturing businesses are unique, so if you’re still not entirely convinced how much you need to regularly update your own I.T. infrastructure, get in touch and we can arrange a network assessment to help ascertain exactly how a plan to upgrade regularly can save you money and reduce your risk. You can reach us at 844-44-JMARK, by email at [email protected], or via the Contact Us page of this website. We want to hear your story and your challenges, truly.