IT Solutions for Manufacturing:
The Ultimate Guide To Manufacturing IT
Manufacturers are under constant pressure to bolster supply chain resiliency and cut costs without compromising product quality. Embracing technology is no longer a choice; it's a necessity. But with so much of the modern manufacturing process dependent on your business network staying online, any downtime can be catastrophic.
Manufacturers experience 800 hours of equipment downtime per year, which breaks down to over 15 nonproductive hours per week.1 All that downtime adds up – one study found that unplanned downtime can cost manufacturers as much as $50 billion a year.2
That’s where managed IT services step in. A managed IT services provider (MSP) can give your manufacturing businesses a strategic advantage by providing expert technology services and responsive support. Read on to learn why managed IT services are indispensable for manufacturing businesses and how you can find the right MSP to work with today.
- What IT Challenges Do Manufacturers Face?
- What Is Digital Transformation for Manufacturers?
- What Is Managed IT?
- What Are the Benefits of Managed IT for Manufacturers?
- What Managed IT Services Do Manufacturers Need?
- How to Choose the Right Managed IT Services Provider
- Andromeda: Your Partner for Manufacturing IT Solutions
What IT Challenges Do Manufacturers Face?
Having the wrong technology in place or not having enough IT support can create overwhelming challenges that stagnate your productivity, security, and operational efficiency. Some of the challenges of IT for manufacturing include:
Outdated legacy systems may not be compatible with modern technologies, leading to integration difficulties, security issues, and limited capabilities.
Manufacturing organizations need to run continuously to meet production targets, and any IT system failures or network downtime can be costly.
IT systems that aren’t effectively integrated across your organization can result in miscommunications and delays that disrupt the supply chain.
Legacy and on-site systems require a high upfront investment and ongoing maintenance, so you’ll pay more if your solutions require frequent repairs.
If employees lack real-time visibility into your organization’s inventory levels, it can be difficult to track stock levels and fulfill orders accurately.
As manufacturing processes become more reliant on IoT devices and cloud-based applications, the risk of cyber attacks and data breaches increases.
While cloud technologies offer manufacturers more flexibility, transitioning legacy systems to the cloud can be a complex and time-consuming process.
Outdated IT systems and a lack of support can hinder your ability to meet changing customer demands as your company grows.
What Is Digital Transformation
Digital transformation or digitization is a process aimed at helping manufacturers future-proof their operations using new technologies. By implementing advanced IT solutions and strategies, manufacturers can more easily address supply chain challenges, increase flexibility, and meet the changing market head-on.
Manufacturers should focus on a number of different factors when building a digitization strategy. All of these require a strong IT infrastructure and a reliable networking provider:
Manufacturing operations generate a massive amount of data. Analyzing this data can give you real-time visibility and insights into your processes, including production efficiency and potential disruptions threatening to halt productivity.
Implementing automation solutions can help streamline your manufacturing processes. These tools use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms to reduce the workload on your skilled staff and improve efficiency by eliminating human error in manual tasks.
IoT and Connectivity
IoT-connected devices can be integrated into manufacturing equipment and products to collect real-time data and enable communication between different components across your manufacturing processes.
Supply Chain Visibility
Digitization leverages advanced technologies and a data-driven approach to increase the tracking and monitoring of supply chain activities. With this improved visibility, you can better predict market trends, improve supply chain coordination, mitigate risks, and more.
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Managed IT services allow organizations to outsource their IT operations to an MSP. When you work with an MSP, they take over day-to-day tasks such as network monitoring, updates and patching, workstation support, and more to help your business minimize downtime and improve productivity.
Popular features of managed IT services include:
- Technical support to troubleshoot IT problems ranging anywhere from software glitches to network connectivity problems.
- Proactive monitoring of your IT environment, including your networks, servers, and devices, to identify and resolve any issues before they can impact your business.
- Device patching and maintenance to ensure your IT environment is always up-to-date and secure.
- Security measures to safeguard your data and systems from cyber threats such as malware, data breaches, and unauthorized access.
- Technology consulting to support your in-house team and ensure you meet your digital transformation project deadlines on time.
MSPs can look at your entire IT infrastructure and help optimize your manufacturing processes with better cyber security, compliance, and cloud services. Some of the biggest advantages of working with a managed IT service provider to provide IT support for manufacturing include:
Manufacturers have a wide range of assets, from machinery to devices, which they need to track for efficiency. The right MSP can implement tracking solutions to provide better control over equipment lifecycles, maintenance schedules, and resource allocation.
Managed IT services also offer more visibility into the production process with real-time analytics. This increased visibility can help manufacturers anticipate issues like production bottlenecks, hardware failures, or network congestion and intervene before they can impact productivity.
Network downtime at manufacturing plants can waste up to 10% of available production time.2 MSPs can proactively monitor your systems to detect issues early and implement preventive measures, reducing the risk of downtime that could disrupt your manufacturing operations.
Better Inventory Management
Managed IT services can improve inventory management by providing technological solutions that enhance visibility and efficiency throughout the manufacturing lifecycle. Having solid IT infrastructure in place can help you automate day-to-day operations processes, such as data entry and reordering systems, to increase accuracy in inventory records.
An MSP can also ensure seamless integration between your inventory management system and your suppliers’ systems for real-time communication about inventory levels and order status, improving coordination and reducing lead times.
Manufacturers often experience fluctuating demands based on market trends and customer orders. Managed IT services can scale your IT resources up or down quickly to match changing manufacturing needs, so you can avoid overprovisioning and ensure optimal system performance.
You can reduce manufacturing errors by implementing automated quality control systems that monitor production processes in real-time. These systems use sensors and data analytics to catch defects and other errors early, reducing the likelihood of defective products reaching the final stages of production. Having a solid IT and networking foundation will enable these tools to work optimally.
Optimized Supply Chain
Boosting supply chain visibility is a top priority for manufacturing industry leaders – which is likely why 94% of manufacturers have implemented advanced analytics tools.3 Leverage analytics and machine learning algorithms to forecast demand more accurately and help optimize production schedules, inventory levels, and procurement decisions.
Businesses in the manufacturing sector typically have to meet industry-specific regulations and compliance standards. MSPs can help you implement and maintain IT systems that meet these requirements to reduce the risk of facing penalties for noncompliance.
Manufacturing companies faced the highest share of cyber security incidents in 2022, with attacks targeting manufacturers accounting for nearly 25% of total cyber attacks worldwide.4 Managed IT service providers typically offer robust security measures to help safeguard against cyber threats and data breaches, so you can rest easier knowing your critical data is secure.
The cloud offers manufacturers much more flexibility and scalability than traditional on-prem solutions, but securing and managing cloud-based systems and data can be challenging. MSPs can help with everything from procuring the right cloud services to managing your cloud resources to improve data integrity and ongoing performance.
Connectivity is one of the most important components of modern business success. Managed IT services can help manufacturers optimize their internet with services like network infrastructure management, which include professional consultation, design, installation, and management for your business network. These services enable your staff to focus on core operations while experts handle the technical aspects of your IT environment, reducing downtime and enhancing overall efficiency.
Manufacturers generate massive amounts of data throughout their day-to-day operations. Managed IT services can use advanced data analytics to help you forecast demand, improve quality control processes, make informed decisions, and more.
VoIP Phone Systems
Effective communication and collaboration tools are essential for keeping manufacturing operations running smoothly. MSPs can provide manufacturers with VoIP-based unified communication systems for seamless interaction between workers, suppliers, and partners.
Cyber attacks targeting manufacturers can wreak havoc on the supply chain. Managed IT services offer advanced security measures, including spam filtering, antivirus, threat detection, and more. By taking a proactive approach to security, your MSP can help safeguard your critical data and ensure compliance with data privacy laws specific to the manufacturing industry.
Many manufacturers today are embracing business continuity solutions to reduce the impact of downtime during any disruptive event. The right MSP can help you develop and implement an effective business continuity plan, including procedures for data backup, system restoration, and communication protocols, to keep your business up and running no matter what.
Mobile Device Management
Mobile and IoT devices have become integral to manufacturing operations, adding dozens – or potentially thousands – of network endpoints to keep track of. Managed IT services can include remote work solutions like mobile device management (MDM), which helps manufacturers secure every network-connected device and continuously monitor for issues that might impact security or productivity, such as unauthorized access and outdated software.
IT Asset Management
MSPs can help manufacturers get more out of their equipment and plan for future needs with IT asset management and planning services. Since a managed IT services provider will typically oversee the entire lifecycle of your IT assets, they can make sure your resources are maintained, upgraded, and eventually decommissioned in a timely and cost-effective manner. MSPs can also help your team create a technology roadmap that aligns your IT assets and business goals to ensure every new tech investment contributes to your strategic objectives.
How to Choose the Right
Managed IT Services Provider
Finding the right MSP for your manufacturing business can be difficult when you’re not sure what to look for. Whether you’re looking for a team of experts to outsource your entire IT operations to or you’d like to support your internal IT department, there are a number of factors to keep in mind when comparing providers.
Here are a few important considerations when hiring a managed IT services provider:
Technology is constantly evolving, so even manufacturers currently working with an MSP can benefit from evaluating whether or not their needs are still being met. Here are a few questions you can ask to determine if your managed IT services provider is still the right fit for your business:
- Do they provide the latest IT solutions? If you’re falling behind with outdated technology, your MSP could be to blame. The right provider will help you access the latest IT solutions for manufacturing businesses and handle installation, so you can keep your operations running efficiently.
- Are they easy to work with? Your in-house staff shouldn’t struggle to get the support they need from your MSP. Not knowing who to contact or how long it will take for a response can lead to frustrated workers and customers, so save yourself from headaches by finding an MSP that’s easy to work with.
- Do they offer proactive support? A good MSP will help you adopt a proactive approach to maintaining your IT environment rather than simply providing reactive break/fix support.
- Do they help you plan for the future? Staying on top of your current technology needs can be difficult enough without having to plan for the future as well. The right MSP should have the experience to advise you on which solutions will actually help your business grow now and in the future.
If it sounds like your current MSP isn’t getting your manufacturing business where you need to be, it’s likely time to move on.
Your Partner for Manufacturing IT Solutions
If your infrastructure isn’t secure and reliable, you risk disrupting supply chains, losing customer trust, and much more. Taking a proactive approach to your IT is essential for managing all the moving parts in your manufacturing business effectively.
Andromeda has delivered secure, scalable technology and physical security solutions to businesses like yours for over 28 years. We’re network infrastructure specialists that can help you stay ahead of your IT problems with local, specialized technicians and support – and we don’t stop until the job is done right.
Trust Andromeda for out-of-this-world technology services tailored to meet your unique needs, including:
Managed IT Services
Ensure your day-to-day IT needs are always covered with proactive workstation and server support when you need it.
Protect your supply chain and equipment with advanced cyber security tools such as spam filtering, threat detection, and more.
Mobile Device Management
Easily manage and secure all devices touching your network, whether that’s dozens or thousands.
Backup & Business Continuity
Keep your operations running no matter what with cloud-based data backups and help a more effective business continuity plan.
IT Asset Management & Planning
Get more out of your equipment and plan for your future needs with an expert IT consultant.
Host your documentation, workflows, and more in the cloud to help your manufacturing teams work efficiently from anywhere.
Layered Network Security
Mitigate unplanned network downtime with a layered security approach.
Protect your building, employees, and supply chain with physical security solutions such as advanced alert systems, surveillance systems, access control solutions, and more.
Unify multiple technology systems and increase efficiency with expert support.
We’ve served 2,500+ clients in our nearly three decades of service, including manufacturing companies with specializations that include:
- Food Products
- Apparel & Textiles
- Lumber & Wood Products
- Paper & Publishing Products
- Chemical Products
- Plastics & Rubber
- Leather Products
- Metal Products
- Industrial Equipment
Whether your business is located near our offices in the Chicagoland area or you're looking for support on a national level, we can help you with all your manufacturing IT and building security needs.