The Search for Long-Term Reliability and Satisfaction: A Digital Transformation Years In the Making
There is great value to understanding your strengths and weaknesses, whether personal or organizational. When you can identify areas that need improvement, you can create a plan to address them. A solid improvement plan also depends on having access to the right resources and finding unique combinations of tools to get the job done.
Fortunately, my IT team is great at innovating. We all get excited about new ideas and continually scour the market for unique solutions. That genuine desire to improve makes it easier to find and adopt new tools that can make our operation better. That same drive is also key to any successful business.
Our constant work has led to a lot of progress over the years. Our quest for a better, quicker IT environment has yielded results as we’ve moved into digitization and virtualization. But more than finding the right tools, staying competitive in the world of enterprise technology demands that we find the right partner to innovate alongside us. We’ve been successful there, too.
Tracking the Move to Virtualization
is a premier designer and manufacturer of high-quality suspension systems. Our operation includes technical centers, manufacturing plants, and experts in many fields, and our customers are some of the most well-known leaders in the global transportation market. We need the right IT tools to design parts, create prototypes, mass-produce, and distribute inventory. Millions of people depend on our products to work correctly, and our customers need timely deliveries and the latest innovations.
I’ve been with automotive businesses for more than 20 years—almost my entire career. I began with General Motors in an engineering role, but for the last 10 years, I have been working as an IT manager in BWI Group. As the IT manager of the Europe Region, I am in charge of administering technology tools to help BWI meet its objectives. That means understanding SLAs, including case data, trend reports, and employee supporting.
While 10 years isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, it’s an eon for technology. Most of the products and services we use have experienced several generations of changes within that time. Each of these alterations had a different impact on our environment and employees.
For example, ten years ago, there was very little computing on the manufacturing floor. At most, there may have been a few machines with PLC controllers, and PCs were almost entirely for office use. Today, nearly all the equipment is controlled directly or programmed via PC. We’re living through the new industrial revolution—otherwise known as “Industry 4.0,” internally called "BWI 4.0."
This new environment required a different level of networking. It was no longer enough to operate based on a PC world. We needed connectivity between all of our machines and the end-user devices that control them.
It was about a decade ago that BWI first began to notice that virtualization was the wave of the future. As our reliance on technology increased, so grew the maintenance requirements and equipment costs. Virtualization offered the benefits of increased computing power while saving us time and money. As a result, we gradually began to increase the number of virtual machines in our operation. The more we saw how everything worked without major issues, the more focused we were on spinning up more virtual devices.
At every stage of the process, we were always focused on making decisions according to our strategic requirements, including high computing power and storage. With better storage capacity, we could handle even more clustered servers. That meant increased installation speed and decreased time to market. Both items made our users happier.
The Partner Who Fueled Our Revolution
BWI Group relies mainly on solutions to provide general virtualization to the entire company using HPE ProLiant DL servers, switches, MSA arrays and 3PAR storage in some locations. Many options are available for storage and virtualization, but we selected HPE because they offered the quality, support and availability we needed at an attractive price.
We also have seen HPE grow with our company. At the beginning of our HPE relationship, we started with 100 MB switches. Now, we have 10GB switches at some sites. As we began to leap forward with virtualization, the process of choosing a vendor became about much more than just buying equipment. We kept going back to HPE because we repeatedly saw how well the company performed.
Our company is not in the IT business, so we need a partner we can trust who will help us meet our goals as they evolve. We have found that trust in HPE. Our confidence in the technology and support allow IT teams across the organization to do our work while dedicating minimal resources to maintenance and problem solving. We don’t stay with HPE because people don’t like change; we stay with HPE because their solutions meet our needs today and we trust they will continue to support us in our growth.
The Results of Our Virtualization Efforts
Today, we have virtualized nearly all of our equipment and realized the benefits. We use every kind of application imaginable, including homegrown native applications and web-based software. Our staff relies on applications to support engineering functions, manufacturing processes, and traditional office work. HPE formed the foundation of our new data center in Poland and the move from rack space to servers. These servers host a number of applications working on Microsoft Windows and Linux systems, also hosting various video surveillance and analytics platforms.
We love knowing that, no matter the device or software, we can restore a machine in minutes at most. There is no longer a need to repair hardware, reinstall machines, install applications, and configure systems. Now, we can get everything up and running on the fly. That means minimal downtime for our users, which makes a huge difference for our operation.
It is sometimes difficult to measure the intangible effects of long-term changes, but the biggest difference I have noticed is the reduction in paperwork. Ten years ago, we mostly had paper documentation all over our desks. Today, there is almost none. But that decrease in paper documentation accompanied an increase in traceability data from the manufacturing machines themselves. More data requires more storage, and that’s increasingly moved off site. Even though we still maintain some infrastructure in-house, I expect even that to change eventually. I don’t pretend to know the future, but we will continue to rely on HPE to deliver the solutions needed.
Virtualizing Success Means Making The Right Long-Term Choices
There is a reason I spent almost my entire career depending on HPE technology. BWI is a complicated operation, and HPE has consistently provided us with reliable hardware, competitive pricing, and responsive service. They are committed to listening to our needs and creating BWI-specific answers. Our choice is about much more than equipment. It might not sound flashy, but HPE’s service and support have helped us get through several migrations and everyday issues without needless headaches.
HPE’s willingness to listen to our needs and help our organization with timely support is worth just as much as the hardware and software. As long as a client can clearly articulate their needs, a good vendor should deliver far more than solutions that meet stated requirements. In today’s world, things evolve so quickly that we need vendors to serve as partners to help us reach our goals. When you find such a partnership, there is no limit to what you can do together.