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Author's profile photo John Harrison

Resilience in Support Functions Information Technology

This another blog in a continuing series discussing what makes for a resilient manufacturing organization. If you missed the opening discussion please read part 1.a summary of the topic, part 2 the introduction, part 3 Flexible Manufacturing Capacity & Scheduling,  part 4 Enterprise Asset Managementpart 5 Enterprise Asset Management II , part 6 Enterprise Asset Management III , part 7 Enterprise Asset Management IV

, part 8 Facilities Management, part 9  Human Capital Management

Information Technology

It has long been a practice to the information technology group to have backup and recovery processes in place for the corporate management systems. Generally the backup data is stored offsite in a safe and secure environment. In some case they have arranged for use of an emergency data processing center that can be utilized if the corporate site has a problem.

With the proliferation of computer controlled manufacturing equipment systems on the shop floor additional procedures for backup and recovery should be contemplated. While it is highly unlikely that a company will go to the length of having an off-site emergency manufacturing environment, other aspects need to be considered. Being able to recover the operating systems, programs installed, and any data collected before the equipment failure is of great use. A large number of the computers that control equipment are relatively standardized. If it is the controlling software or the controlling computer that is causing the problem, being able to recover back to a version of the software that was working correctly is essential in recovery. In some cases the controlling computer can be swapped out and the replacement loaded with the correct software.

As an additional complication is the fact that mobile devices are increasingly being used in the manufacturing environment. To the normal complications of data backup and recovery we can now add the likelihood of the devices being lost and potentially important information being exposed. While a lost mobile device does not immediately seem something that a resilient organization should be concerned with, the lost device can expose vulnerabilities to the outside and a malicious person might be able to exploit these vulnerabilities and could cause a significant incident. Being able to disable, or otherwise make useless, these lost devices is an essential part of protecting the corporation and avoiding potential incidents. 


Figure:Best in class mange devices remotely –  Enterprise Mobility Management: Optimizing the Full Mobile Life Cycle – Aberdeen Group 2010


One of the current trends in information technology is “cloud computing”. This refers to the delivery of computing and storage capacity as a service to a heterogeneous community. As this offering matures, the cloud is gaining capabilities that historically were only available as on premise solutions to companies.  Being  able to access the corporate systems via the internet, not being tied down to one location, simplifies the corporate information technology infrastructure, and allows a corporation to take advantage of the cloud service provider redundant infrastructure.  While the cloud holds great promise for a resilient corporation, most large corporations are hesitant in putting their complete corporate business systems into the cloud. Some of the reasons for not fully embracing the cloud include 1) for highly regulated businesses there is confusion about the regulatory impact in moving to the cloud, 2) concerns about the potential loss of intellectual property in the case of a security breach in the cloud, 3) the large amount of complexity involved in the corporate systems, and 4) security.


As a result, corporations are only moving selected parts to the corporate systems into the cloud, although currently most corporations are happier with using a private cloud rather than a public one.


Figure: Existing Service Delivery PlatformSecurity of Data in the Public Cloud – The Cloud Journey: A Reality Check on the State of Enterprise Adoption Ken Male Managing Director 451 Research  HCTS Europe London 2012

It is expected that as the cloud matures and corporations gain more experience with operating in the cloud that the majority of a corporation’s business
system will be cloud based. Thus removing points of failure and enhancing the resilience of the corporation

Have you faced issues with creating a resilient organization? Is it possible to build a resilient organization in the chemical industry? Can Information Tecnology help? Feel free to discuss/share stories about these questions along with manufacturing in the chemicals industry in general in the comment space below. 

Or join the conversation at @SAP4Chemicals

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