Technology is changing the manufacturing industry, so it’s important to keep up to stay competitive. The big question is, how? When it comes to IT, and technology, more broadly, the answer is… well, it depends. It depends where you are starting from.
If you’re lining your car up at the start of the track (figuratively speaking), your approach to the race will be very different from someone right at the back. Something similar applies to IT and technology.
There are two main things to consider. The first is how you view IT services, while the second involves deciding what to prioritize first.
Drivers, Start Your Engines
Outsourcing to a co-managed IT services provider will deliver benefits. However, the extent of those benefits depends on your outlook. If you hire a company solely to provide IT support, you’ll only get so far.
We can go back to our car racing analogy to expand on this further. The above is like a racing driver only using the team’s mechanics to fix problems after they occur and occasionally change the tires. You won’t win many races with this approach. Instead, you need the mechanics to work in true partnership with the driver to develop, set up, and optimize the car to prevent faults.
Your relationship with an IT services provider should follow a similar pattern. It should be a partnership relationship where your co-managed IT services provider works to optimize IT in your business to help you achieve your strategic objectives.
Develop Your Race Strategy
What to prioritize first? You need to look at your business’s challenges and opportunities to decide what areas should be addressed first. Following on the above points, your co-managed IT services partner can provide valuable input to this process.
Some of the challenges/opportunities you might consider include:
- Aging IT infrastructure and applications that are becoming increasingly difficult, costly, and time-consuming to manage
- The need to continue converging IT and OT (operational technology) in your business
- Improving oversight, control, and decision-making by better-utilizing data
- Increasing automation to improve throughput and quality, make better use of resources, and minimize waste and inefficiencies
- Addressing cybersecurity challenges, especially as more of your equipment at factory floor level gets connected to the internet
- Overcoming labor or skill shortages through optimized production processes and automation
- Lowering costs
- Enhancing oversight of your supply chain and improving your supply chain management capabilities
A good approach is to focus on the areas where a co-managed IT services partner can help you achieve the biggest gains.
What about working with a co-managed IT services partner? Here are three things you should know.
- Identify the Obstacles that Require Technology Expertise
Identifying and then focusing on the biggest obstacles or bottlenecks facing your company is where you should focus your efforts with your co-managed IT services partner. The experience of one of our clients is an excellent example to highlight this point.
A client, who is a manufacturer, contacted us to assist them in resolving a severe problem they were experiencing. The problem centered on an IT system used for many of the company’s workflows and processes. However, it was a custom-made and managed system that only one person understood in detail, and that person had left the company.
Our approach at StepUP IT is to identify the obstacles this situation presented. We then prioritize those obstacles and implement solutions:
- Obstacle 1 – keeping the business operational. As this was the highest priority, we addressed this first by assigning one of our engineers to reverse engineer the system so they could understand it and provide the day-to-day support the company needed.
- Obstacle 2 – move to a more modern, future-proof solution. Once the day-to-day obstacle was resolved, we moved on to help the company acquire a new system, built using industry standards, to replace the old system.
The benefits of this approach included minimizing the substantial business risk the company was facing and improving productivity and efficiency. The client also achieved a rapid return on investment.
- Treat the Outside IT Partner as a True Partner
We’ve touched on this point above. Still, it is worth exploring further, particularly how you can develop a true partnership relationship with your co-managed IT services provider. Here are some tips:
- Don’t just tell your IT partner how you do things. Instead, utilize their experience and knowledge gained from working with other businesses to help make improvements in yours.
- Set clear expectations and ensure clear lines of responsibility between your outside IT partner and internal IT team.
- Be flexible and allow the partnership to evolve and grow to ensure maximum benefits for your business.
- Ensure there are strong communication links and build the relationship with a foundation of trust and transparency.
- View the Partnership with Your Co-Managed IT Services Provider as an Investment
IT is like any other part of your business. If you spend the same amount of money, you will get results, but those results will be in line with what you have achieved before. Some improvements might be possible, but they will be marginal.
You need to invest to make real gains and improvements, but that doesn’t mean throwing more money at IT. IT needs to be approached like any other part of your business. Take your production line as an example. There are all sorts of advanced machines you can buy that have the potential to deliver improvements. However, splashing out on that shiny new machine won’t get you very far. Instead, you need solutions that focus on return on investment – measurable and rapid return on investment.
The same applies to IT. To make the IT improvements and gains you need, you will need to spend money, but make sure you spend it with a provider focused on delivering a return on your investment.
Concentrate on What You Do Best
We opened this blog by pointing out that technology is changing the manufacturing sector. Not only is technology changing the sector, but the technologies that are being developed and implemented today are becoming increasingly complex. From hybrid cloud to machine learning to edge computing to predictive analytics, it can be hard to keep up.
A reliable co-managed IT services partner will provide your business and internal IT team with the support you need to deliver on your objectives and continue your digital transformation journey. You will also be able to concentrate on what you do best – manufacturing your products and delivering on your customers’ expectations. Get in touch with us at StepUP IT to find out more about how we can help.