The principal goal of any manufacturing business is to produce profit – to that end, companies work tirelessly to optimize their processes, improve overall performance, and ensure continuous operation. One of the key enablers of that lies in the network. Let’s see how Extreme solutions keep the well-oiled machine running smoothly!
Today, in the era of digital transformation and the adoption of smart manufacturing, the need for hyper-reliable, secure, agile, and easily-managed network infrastructure is greater than ever. Some go as far as to say that what we’re observing right now can be called a Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0.
As a result of introducing more and more services, applications, and connected devices, many manufacturing networks become very complex and highly heterogeneous, often operating with an increased risk of cyber-security incidents, as evidenced by the examples of Norsk Hydro in 2019 or several car manufacturers in 2017.
In networking, just like in manufacturing, time equals money. Whether the company has only one production plant or hundreds of factories across the world, the overarching goal of every IT department is to maximize operational efficiencies and avoid bottlenecks and downtime (which in turn adds costs). However, with the growing number of network complexities, that task becomes increasingly difficult.
Flexibility, but not at the cost of security
Now, let’s take a closer look at some real-life cases. To enable more efficiency, Škoda Auto and Volkswagen Poznań, two major car manufacturers in the Central Europe, looked for a solution that would allow their IT teams to quickly reconfigure and expand services to other locations with as little maintenance windows as possible, and without disrupting other services running at the same time.
“Our IT team had to have a way to deploy new services quickly”, Martin Polak, Coordinator for Network Planning at Škoda Auto, firmly states.
“For example, if we had to quickly deploy the same service in the welding shop, as we had done on the assembly line, two geographically separated locations, we needed to introduce many changes manually when using the previous infrastructure”, adds Paweł Stakuć, Senior Information Technology Specialist, IT Infrastructure at Volkswagen Poznań. “Executing it quickly and, more importantly, securely, was a very difficult task”.
The key word here is ‘securely’. Given the complexity of today’s manufacturing floor, often consisting of autonomous robotics, smart sensors and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) equipment which usually lacks built-in security, the need for consistent access policy and traffic separation to isolate potentially vulnerable end-points is crucial.
Extreme Fabric Connect: network automation and segmentation in one go
To enable more network automation and security, both Škoda Auto and Volkswagen Poznań decided to leverage the industry-leading Extreme Fabric Connect solution. With its built-in automation that streamlines network deployment and operations, as well as the hyper-segmentation capability, it became possible to quickly deploy services for devices while simultaneously isolating them from the critical network traffic.
“We set out to establish different groups of clients based on the level of ‘trust’ so that we could manage them and separate them from each other more easily”, says Paweł Stakuć. “What convinced us to choose Extreme’s solution was the fact that it guaranteed high flexibility and took complexity out of network management by offering a healthy dose of automation”.
Given the complexity of today’s manufacturing floor (...) the need for consistent access policy and traffic separation to isolate potentially vulnerable end-points is crucial.
With the Extreme Fabric Connect solution, Škoda gained the ability to upgrade or implement new services with no maintenance windows. Furthermore, thanks to the simplified maintenance, the technicians can focus on more innovation-driven projects.
“Automation of many activities is driving better productivity of the whole IT team and not only”, Josef Saska, Coordinator of IT infrastructure at Škoda Auto declares. “As an example, data from screw drivers have to be stored for 15 years. There is no need to configure network if such device moves throughout the plant, all is automated and secured”.
The business must flow!
What’s also worth noting, since automated fabric provisioning reduces the risk of human error dramatically (e.g. due to a manual misconfiguration), the implemented solution also helps mitigate financial risk attributed to the network downtime and the subsequent production line shutdown.
To be more specific – since the introduction of Extreme Networks Fabric Connect to the Škoda’s network environment in 2013, no more unplanned outages have been observed, and the time required for service outages has been reduced by 50%.
“We removed the strain on our network that was hindering business growth and performance of our applications”, says Martin Polak. “Our new Extreme infrastructure optimizes staff performance across all areas of business. Now we manage everything online, without service outages. We have improved the performance and morale of our IT staff, and now they don’t have to work overtime.”
In networking, just like in manufacturing, time equals money.
“The increased availability and convergence of the services have direct effect on our Service Level Agreement which we manage to improve with each passing year. Our current target is 99.96% for the entire IT infrastructure. We don’t just reach that objective; we exceed it”, Paweł Stakuć from Volkswagen Poznań concludes.
To sum it up…
Extreme Networks’ open, software-driven network solutions for the Manufacturing industry are agile, adaptive and secure to enable your digital transformation and improve output and productivity. With services and support that are rated #1 in the industry, we keep leading manufacturers like Coca-Cola, SAP, Fujitsu, Siemens, Colgate, and Samsung connected and running smoothly.
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