Seven out of ten manufacturing CEOs say the lead time on digital transformation seems overwhelming, according to a survey by KPMG. As manufacturing companies engage in digital transformation, they may look to introduce changes on the plant floor. Plant and engineering managers are under increased pressure to improve efficiency and introduce or upgrade technology tools such as automation and virtualization. To assist with these projects, and to help ease the overall burden on their IT teams, manufacturing firms are turning to outsourced IT managed services.
To ensure a smooth transition and a positive partnership with a managed services provider (MSP), managers would do well to consider doing these five things:
1. Determine the Scope of Your Partnership
Engaging with an MSP doesn’t mean outsourcing all of your technical needs. MSPs typically offer a variety of services, including:
- Network upgrades
- Network monitoring and maintenance
- Security monitoring and maintenance
- Installing or upgrading automation systems
- Installing or upgrading virtualization solutions
- Migrating to a new system
Consider which areas are taking up the majority of your team’s time and whether those tasks could be handled by an outside party. For example, given the expense of network downtime, many manufacturers work with MSPs for network monitoring. MSPs typically offer around-the-clock monitoring, which frees up your staff to focus on other infrastructure goals. A high-quality MSP will take a proactive stance to your network, completing regular maintenance and patching to help keep downtime to a minimum.
2. Determine Budget Requirements
Even though manufacturing firms are demanding more from their technology, budgets don’t always keep up. Although outsourced IT managed services may initially feel like an additional expense, the consistency and predictable costs associated with working with an MSP often result in savings. Instead of hiring an additional staff member, bringing in a temporary employee to oversee a project, or paying your team overtime, you have a built-in, predictable cost.
MSPs also allow your team to work more efficiently. Without the burden of day-to-day network troubleshooting, your staff can get more done in less time, resulting in reduced costs over time. The preventative maintenance offered by MSPs also improves network uptime, resulting in more cost savings.
3. Align Your Partnership with Your Technology Goals
A high-quality MSP will see themselves as a partner in your organization. Consider sharing your technology goals, both short- and long-term, with prospective MSPs. For example, automation is taking an increasingly more significant role in manufacturing, creating safer work environments and improving efficiency. Your MSP can work with you to evaluate your current infrastructure and develop a long-term plan for meeting your technology goals. Their knowledge from working with other manufacturing organizations can help inform your decisions about what to do (and what not to do) in the long term.
4. Consider Your Security Stance
Industrial IoT has brought new opportunities for manufacturing, but it’s also increased security vulnerabilities. Cyber-espionage is a frequent driver in external security attacks on manufacturing firms, according to the Verizon 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report, which could expose trade secrets and set your organization back. Corporate and plant networks are increasingly interconnected, increasing the need for a thoughtful, diligent approach to cybersecurity.
An MSP can assist you in hardening your network security. They can review your current network infrastructure, provide recommendations for improvement, and then monitor your network around the clock. They can keep your system updated and handle day-to-day alerts guided by your direction. Outsourcing cybersecurity can bring peace of mind and relieve your team of a time-consuming task.
5. Look to Fill Skill Gaps
With the rapid changes in manufacturing technology, it can be a challenge to keep up. Consider upcoming projects or areas where you would benefit from expert support. For example, migrating from legacy automation software to today’s systems is a complex, involved task. The network infrastructure may need to be updated, software needs to be built out to meet your organization’s needs, and everything needs to be thoroughly tested. An experienced MSP can take projects like this under their wing and dedicate their expert staff to your project.
MSPs offer experience and expertise built up from completing projects at a variety of manufacturing firms. They can bring that expertise to your plant, ensuring projects are completed on time and in alignment with your planned maintenance schedule.
Choosing an MSP
Once you’ve determined what you’re looking for in an MSP, it’s time to choose the right one. When you’re researching and interviewing potential MSPs, consider factors such as:
- Industry expertise—Some MSPs see manufacturing as just one of many industries they serve. Manufacturing is a uniquely complex industry, though. Consider choosing an MSP that prioritizes manufacturing and has a track record of successfully completed manufacturing projects.
- Long-term relationships—Trusted partnerships take time. Consider how long prospective MSPs have been working with their clients. Look for a pattern of long-term relationships and multiple successful projects.
- They see themselves as partners—A high-quality MSP will see themselves as a partner in the success of your plant. They’ll embrace the challenges of working in a manufacturing environment and use their perspective and knowledge to help you achieve your long-term technology goals.
At DC Plus, we believe in the importance of manufacturing. We see ourselves as a partner in your success, and we have a track record of successful manufacturing engagements. We specialize in manufacturing IT, and our managed IT services and solutions can bring your plant increased efficiency and peace of mind. Contact us today to find out how we can help.