Technology drives modern manufacturing.
From CAD and CAM software to the firmware that facilitates additive processes and material forming to the hardware sitting in the server closet, technology is vital to nearly every aspect of a manufacturing business. This makes technology support vital, too.
In light of this, let’s establish a foundational understanding of what IT support for manufacturing entails. Sure, manufacturing companies need IT support – but what, exactly, should be supported?
While IT solutions will vary across different manufacturing facilities and business contexts, here are a few of the standard solutions that manufacturers nearly always need.
In today’s internet-driven age – where so many systems are online and where automation is assumed – it’s crucial that manufacturing firms have robust networks. By robust, we mean that networks should both be able to easily support the load of facility functions and be hardened against cybersecurity threats.
It’s worth noting that, in addition to the importance of traditional networks, manufacturers would do well to consider the design, implementation, and maintenance of any IoT networks. Thanks to the variety of machines on these networks, they can sometimes lag behind in security and efficiency – but they’ll only become more important as connectivity becomes more ubiquitous.
Server and workstation support
Manufacturing IT solutions should also support servers and workstations. Most often, these are stored or arranged in the facility office space off of the production floor. Accordingly, their support tends to be tied into the support of the facility itself.
Increasingly, though, cloud-based servers may be used to run facility applications. And remote work is increasingly common, so office-based employees may choose to work from different locations.
The key is that systems are kept online and running smoothly – and that help is easily accessible whether employees are working at the facility or at other locations. Helpdesk support can be a viable solution for this.
ERP system implementation, optimization, and support
Now, we’re getting a bit more specialized. Not every industry needs an optimized enterprise resource planning solution – but manufacturers (at least those operating at any sort of scale) do.
ERPs are software platforms that provide both visibility of and control over data across business processes. They integrate functions like finance, HR, supply chain, operations, and reporting into a single system, where traditionally these functions would’ve had their own processes and little ability to share data between them.
It’s important that manufacturers get their ERP solutions right, because ERP solutions will help manufacturing to go right. Margin matters, and inefficient data management can add up to big costs over time. At ATB, we help companies with custom ERP development and consulting to ensure that systems are creating advantages.
If you aren’t sure your ERP is working for you, give us a call.
Support for specialized systems
Finally, technology for manufacturing companies should include support for specialized systems.
Admittedly, this is a bit of a catch-all; covering every technology option in this space isn’t realistic, but it’s important to note that most manufacturing companies have specialized systems that are tailored to their industry and needs.
These often include systems like:
- Additive Processes: Including 3D printing, laser sintering, and rapid prototyping equipment.
- Automated Systems: Including Transfer machines, assembly systems, automated systems and cells, and Flexible Manufacturing Systems (FMS).
- Material Forming Technology: Including stamping, bending, joining, hydroforming, presses, etc.
- Material Removal Technology: Including turning, milling, drilling, grinding, tapping, electrical discharge machines, laser process equipment, etc.
- Specialized Software: CAD, CAM, CNC, Direct Numerical Control, Programmable Logic Control, Numerical Control, etc.
Obviously, the list above only taps the surface of technology that might be used at a manufacturing facility – but the use of specialized technology is a certainty. IT support must take this reality into account. IT providers do well to provide a thorough needs analysis; they should review and evaluate all existing systems before offering support solutions.
Does your manufacturing firm have the right IT support?
The above information should provide you with a foundation for approaching IT support for manufacturing – hopefully, you now have a handle on the systems and solutions you’ll be considering.
Now, take a moment to reflect on your approach.
There are two perspectives on IT support for manufacturing. The first is that IT solutions should keep systems running – if there aren’t major issues, then things are satisfactory. This viewpoint assumes that IT is defensive.
The second is that manufacturing IT solutions should add value. They should keep systems running – but they should also bring innovation to the table and work to drive down expenses while maximizing production. This viewpoint looks to IT as an advantage.
We believe that manufacturing firms that seek to make IT an advantage will outpace the competition.
Ready to give your business an advantage?
At ATB Technologies, we provide support for manufacturing companies using the managed service model to deliver proactive IT.
Too many manufacturing companies are stagnating with IT issues thanks to a lack of communication that builds mistrust over time. We remove this barrier by hiring for communication skills and customer service. We take an end-to-end approach to IT that gives businesses the best technology for their needs and prevents issues before they happen so that our clients can turn IT into an advantage.
If you’re looking for the ideal IT solution for your manufacturing firm – one that gives your business a competitive advantage – let’s talk.