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Robust IT gets manufacturers through times of crisis

Robust IT gets manufacturers through times of crisis

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A robust IT environment is highly important in the manufacturing industry in order to lay the foundations for innovation. Theo van Andel, Senior Manager Field Development Segment Marketing at Equinix EMEA, discusses how to respond quickly to changing production conditions and to innovative demands.

For manufacturing industry leaders, times of crisis can be like a right hook in the boxing ring. Unsurprisingly, the sector has seen a huge shake-up in recent months. Future uncertainty makes it difficult, if not impossible, for manufacturers to predict exact production volumes.

The situation is prompting many companies to look for a more flexible business structure. In fact, research shows that more than half of manufacturers anticipate a coming change to their business operations.

The central question is: how can business processes be set up to allow for quick responses when changing circumstances lead to fluctuations in production?

Production processes

Production volume is not the only variable to take into account – the production process itself can also change. For instance, an Equinix customer in the food industry is currently experiencing a significant shift in demand. The closure of restaurants and company canteens stalled the demand for its catering packaging. At the same time, however, its production technology can barely keep up with the demand for small packaging.

As the demand shifted, the process also changed. The manufacturer asked anyone who is not directly involved in the production process to work from home in order to minimise contact between employees. This impacted many procedures, from sudden changes in communication forms to the process monitoring that now has to happen remotely.

Sudden adjustments

The best way for companies to weather radical changes like this is with a solid IT environment, one where flexibility is a foundational principle. Thankfully for the aforementioned manufacturer, they made the necessary adjustments to create a robust and flexible IT environment before the crisis hit.

The manufacturer placed crucial IT infrastructure in a neutral data centre. From this neutral environment, the company can connect with (public) cloud providers, network service providers and both new and existing partners in the ecosystem (on a local scale as well as a global one). From there, it’s easy to change or add cloud providers, which prevents vendor lock-in and keeps the cost of change to a minimum.

Scale up or down as needed

Equinix developed a tool to streamline this process and both simplify and support hybrid and multicloud infrastructures for businesses. The interconnectivity platform makes it easy for companies to create secure private connections with virtually any cloud and service provider. Additionally, the required bandwidth can be easily scaled up or down according to need.

With the tool, businesses can avoid the less secure public Internet. Data cannot be intercepted en route and latency is low and predictable. Companies across the world can establish direct and secure interconnections with any other company via the Equinix network. This allows companies to scale their digital business up and down as fast as the economy requires. A good IT infrastructure helps organisations to remain flexible and operational in difficult times.

Innovation

It’s not just in times of crisis, however, that a robust IT environment is of great importance. The right infrastructure is the digital foundation for innovative companies. To remain competitive, it is crucial for manufacturers to embrace digital technology and set up business processes so quick adjustments can be made based on data-driven insights.

Manufacturers are investing in digital technology such as Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) more frequently, not only to support their production processes but also to be able to meet the market’s constantly changing demands. We also see that manufacturers are marketing more and more products ‘as a service’. These developments are causing a major adjustment of business models and have a huge impact on the IT environment. Ensuring secure interconnections with partners from the ecosystem is the key to this model.

Current developments have made securely connecting with multiple cloud services indispensable. A flexible IT environment is now a crucial factor in the success of the company, both in good times and difficult ones.

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