Adapting to the Changing Automotive Landscape with Integrated and Simplified Cisco Solutions
Organisational changes often take place as a result of new leadership. When leadership sticks to the old way of doing business, a company can get stuck. But when the leaders realise the need for change and establish a new vision, the organisation is better positioned to adapt.
Five years ago, BMC Otomotiv began to experience this shift. For more than 50 years, BMC has been a leader in the Turkish automotive industry, offering products for both foreign and domestic markets. Our company specialises in a mix of transportation-related solutions for individuals, organisations and our military. Specifically, we produce everything from engines, trucks, cars and buses to tactical military vehicles. Today, we are one of the largest manufacturers in the region.
Five years ago was when our company leadership changed. With that change came a brand new vision for our operations. The new owners wanted to push the company’s digital transformation forward. They hoped to streamline everything from our sales cycles to research and development, and they had to do it across three companies that were all part of the BMC umbrella.
I knew from experience that transformation is rarely easy and that doing it right required using the best tools at our disposal. We needed solutions that would increase simplicity and security, even though our operation was so large that doing so would be a Herculean task. Still, our leadership wanted the change to happen soon, and they wanted it done right.
Establishing Ground Rules
When I joined the company three years ago, I assumed a critical role in making this digital transformation happen. My educational background was in computer engineering and this was not my first time directing an IT office, nor was it my first time undergoing an organisational transformation.
Because BMC Otomotiv serves dramatically different customers, many of our functions were handled separately. For example, the research and development (R&D) team’s security needs for building cars are very different from their needs for building armoured vehicles. The development and sales processes for individual vehicles are also different from the business-to-business needs of our trucks and buses. With more than 2,500 employees and a production capability of 12,500 a year, creating simplicity was incredibly difficult.
I manage four departments: business solutions, engineering solutions, security and infrastructure — all across three companies under the BMC umbrella. So when I came into the company mid-transformation, my goal was to solve three main challenges:
- Improve employees' existing work habits
- Increase efficiency by integrating all systems into a secure and compliant architecture
- Automate as many of those systems as possible
I knew if I could accomplish these three things, I would simplify operations, eliminate time-wasting functions and decrease the potential for human errors. Now more than ever, digital transformation is nearly impossible without an intelligent intent-based network with automation, analytics and security.
A Long-Term Partner Rises to the Task
Fortunately, I didn’t have far to look to find a partner that would help us accomplish all of these tasks. BMC Otomotiv had an existing long-term partnership with Cisco. Our network and security infrastructure was already powered by Cisco. We had Cisco Catalyst 9000 family of switches, Wi-Fi 6 compatible access points and wireless controllers, along with security solutions like Cisco Firepower, Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE) and Stealthwatch. And since we knew our end product had to properly integrate these solutions, it only made sense that we take further advantage of our existing Cisco relationship. We also knew they would have the tools, customer service and know-how to handle a project of this size.
We also liked the fact that if we ever had an issue, we would know exactly who to call. Often the dilemma is not with one piece of equipment, but is caused by system incompatibility. You know you can't conduct teleconferences, for example, but is the problem caused by the phone, the access point or the firewall? It can be a headache tracking down a problem and determining the vendor responsible. A single service provider provides the continuity that’s vital for building a system that is easy to maintain and manage.
For us, this ease of maintenance and management begins and ends with Cisco DNA Center. We were excited to implement Cisco DNA Center because it’s a network management system that provides control and analytics from a centralised location. Thanks to the integrations between our existing Cisco Security products, everything running through the network is highly visible, and that increased the level of security for our infrastructure.
Thanks to Cisco DNA Center’s integration with Stealthwatch and ISE, we can now quickly identify a security breach, for example, rather than searching for hours through the system manually. Every minute spent looking for the breach is another minute that damage is being done. We no longer had to risk that time.
From a management perspective, controlling costs is always an important consideration. Cisco DNA Center's enhanced visibility means everything can be managed from one place. Without that kind of focus, you need more people and equipment to make sure everything is running smoothly. With an operation the size of BMC, we would need an additional fifty employees just to maintain the network. Now, however, we’re much more efficient.
Minimising Operational Burden in the Age of a Pandemic
Many businesses around the world found themselves completely unable to function during the coronavirus pandemic. But as part of our digital transformation, we had already laid the foundation for remote work, and that foundation helped us tremendously when we needed to expand our Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI).
Like most other companies, we suddenly found it unsafe to work in massive complexes with hundreds of employees in each building. We had to send employees home to keep everyone healthy. We also wanted to keep our R&D teams working, but there were a number of obstacles in front of us.
First, we use high-performance computers with GPU cards, and these machines were simply too large to transport to new locations. Secondly, we were using proprietary programs and licensed computer-aided design software. We did not want — and could not afford — to give every R&D employee a separate workstation at home. Finally, many of our employees are handling sensitive documents and design information pertaining to military equipment, and that cannot be transported between machines due to security concerns.
Thanks to our investment with Cisco servers and virtual machines, we quickly got 500 engineers connected at home. They continued their efforts when many companies around the world, including other manufacturers in Turkey, had to stop production. Not only were we able to continue working, but we’ve even been able to actively consider new solutions to transportation. We are fully prepared to continue our work remotely, onsite, or with some hybrid version, and we would not be in this position had we not begun digitisation prior to the global pandemic.
The pandemic response wasn't the only benefit. There was a huge improvement the moment we moved our critical disaster recovery systems online, and we saw a remarkable increase in network efficiency. Prior to digitisation, we had about 3% downtime. After the transformation, we are down to about 0.3% downtime. That is a powerful testament to Cisco's VDI solution.
Simplified Licensing for Easy Expansion
As part of our upgrade, we also have the first enterprise agreement (EA) for collaboration and networking (including switching and access points) in Turkey. Since we use various Cisco solutions across BMC, licensing can get complicated. But the EA combines all our licences under one umbrella. This means future expansion is simple and predictable and we even get Cisco’s technical support with the agreement.
Because BMC is a forward-thinking company, we are always planning for the next big project. We love that the EAs can keep us covered if we need to involve new people or teams. For example, the EA will make bringing on new teams for our IoT project incredibly straightforward.
The truth is, R&D is the heart of a company like ours. We need our development team to work closely with sales, HR and many other units. That requires full integration of all of our systems to truly leverage our brain trust.
Defining Future Success
Today, BMC Otomotiv has the biggest VDI infrastructure powered by Cisco servers in Turkey. We are using Catalyst 3K switches for our network environment and VxBlock for our SAP systems all powered by Cisco UCS. In our Arifiye factory, all production workloads run on Cisco Hyperflex with Fabric Interconnects. Thanks to our end-to-end Cisco portfolio and Cisco DNA Center, we can oversee our entire infrastructure from a single pane of glass. Our operation is now automated as much as possible in the most secure way.
Executives can’t afford to think solely in terms of vendors and procurement. You have to build strategic partnerships with companies who are just as forward thinking as you are.
Some people may see us as pioneers in our sector, but I think the key to our success has been leveraging an amazing partnership. If I had one piece of advice for other executives, it’s that you cannot afford to think solely in terms of vendors and procurement. You have to build strategic partnerships with companies who are just as forward thinking as you are, and who are adopting and adapting technologies to make them accessible in a way that suits your needs.
If all parties are committed to the strategic long-term success of your operation, your future can be as secure as your present. With Cisco, I know we’re as secure as we can be.