Written by Todd Miller, VP of Technology Solutions
Digital transformation has been on the minds of most business executives since the personalization of IT in the late ’90s. Although digitization has become a common workplace tool in several sectors since then, much of the fastener industry is still catching up.
Now, most fastener manufacturers and distributors have their sights set on modernizing applications and technology infrastructure to keep pace with the rapidly evolving digital world. This means taking antiquated manual workflows and modernizing them with computer and network technology, eliminating slow, repetitive manual tasks that are error-prone and inefficient.
Slowly but surely, automation is taking over tasks such as inventory management (VMI), supply chain replenishment, EDI delivery of data, supplier order management, and parts manufacturing. As a result of advances in machine learning and data analytics, fastener production and supply chains are becoming more efficient and productive.
However, such digital transformations rely on a steadfast network. This wireless network — a key component of connected devices and effective data exchange — is an unsung hero of sorts (at least, until it suffers interruptions or failures). While many are devoting time to digitally restructuring their business, it’s just as critical to secure a reliable network, which can make or break an organization’s ability to operate.
What you should know about the cloud
One part of a digital transformation is migrating a company’s data and applications to the cloud. Cloud computing refers to storing and accessing data over the internet instead of, say, an office computer’s hard drive. This allows accessibility from anywhere and any device, which is ideal for the different touchpoints in one’s supply chain. It also provides one large, centralized area for data and data security (as opposed to storing this data on several computers or devices).
What’s critical about accessing the cloud is security. One option is a public cloud environment, which must be architected with multiple redundancies and failovers that prevent costly downtime. This is a third-party computing service, which ensures scalability, and security. Unlike a private cloud environment, owned and maintained by one business, a public one is fully maintained.
Businesses have found cost and ease-of-management advantages in public cloud environments because the hardware, software, and security infrastructure are typically included as part of a monthly service.
Typically, when a company’s data or applications are moved to the cloud, they must be optimized for that new environment. The job of software engineers is to ensure that applications can access data and perform complex computations seamlessly, despite the application software and the data now living in a significantly different environment.
A well-designed network ensures the smooth flow of traffic to and from the cloud, supporting the efforts of the software engineer.
Though some applications like email and basic web use can be less sensitive to nuanced connectivity dynamics, applications that transmit EDI data or critical supply chain information can be disastrous when run over an improperly designed network.
Unfortunately, IT organizations often lack in-house support to reliably cover each element of the cloud and a centralized network infrastructure — which must include data optimization, as well as traffic management and security.
The customer experience
Server maintenance, software upgrades, and security concerns are just a few of the issues that require internal resources to manage. While most networks are reliable and secure, they’re notoriously costly and inflexible. Public cloud environments operated and maintained by managed network service providers alleviate many of the headaches IT executives have had to deal with.
And ultimately, it’s the fastener customer experience that counts. The customer doesn’t need to understand what networks are available and where they reside, nor the myriad of technologies which exist to provide the right solution. What is important is that your network delivers quality performance without fail. This means a cloud environment that safely stores and secures your data and one that’s accessible to your team, and your team only.