by Manjunath Nagaraju, on June 19, 2019
This blog describes how to improve existing application maintenance and support capabilities in a way that supports your factory’s manufacturing digitization roadmap and delivers tangible benefits early on in your digital transformation journey.
With the accelerated adoption of IT in manufacturing environments, “digitization” is one of the latest manufacturing buzzwords. For Manufacturing Operations managers and CIOs, that means lifecycle management of both existing and future applications in the IT-OT (operational technology) layer is rapidly becoming a critical area of focus. One of the challenges Manufacturing Operations and CIOs face when embarking on digitization is how to use their limited manufacturing-IT budgets to ensure disruption-free operations to legacy applications and IT networks, while also focusing on innovating future IT landscapes.
At SYSTEMA, we firmly believe that application lifecycle maintenance, when executed strategically, presents a significant opportunity to extend the life of existing applications, reduce the cost of maintenance and enable upgrades and innovation at the same time.
The following roadmap outlines how to transform legacy application support into digital-age ALM, largely through the strategic deployment of existing IT factory-support resources. Implementing the following steps will help you address both the challenges you face in your current IT landscape and accelerate the speed with which you can reach your future state and reap the benefits of your digital roadmap.
SYSTEMA has worked closely with manufacturing IT departments around the world on application support and development. We believe that application maintenance is not a trivial task that can or should be approached by getting more resources involved.
Based on our experience, the factories most successful in executing their digital roadmaps employ application support resources with a deep and broad understanding of the underlying manufacturing and business processes.
Using resources with these capabilities minimizes support costs, ensures application continuity and improves resource allocation towards achieving manufacturing digitization.
These key application management resources will be involved in putting existing manufacturing processes and applications (i.e. the “status quo”) through the steps outlined below. These steps help to realign both processes and legacy applications with overall company goals, often (re-)defining, simplifying and automating processes along the way. These improved processes and applications are key to ensuring continuity, reducing costs and improving resource allocation towards digitization.
As a preparatory step, the offices of the CIO and Manufacturing Operations will deploy working teams to first inventory all applications within the manufacturing landscape, and subsequently determine where each application fits within the strategic roadmap. A commonly used framework is Gartner’s TIME model, used to map applications into four quadrants (Tolerate, Invest, Migrate, Eliminate). Legacy applications may very well be outdated from a technology perspective, but due to the nature of their business function a decision is made to either extend them, or to encapsulate them using modern technology frameworks thus allowing them to be extended, or in the future migrated. Developing the As-Is and To-Be IT Blueprint allows IT and Manufacturing to develop a basis in which invest / divest decisions are made with assurance that both perspectives are represented.
Investment in your go-forward legacy applications to make them more robust can be an important step toward freeing up your IT resources with deep knowledge of your manufacturing IT environment.
During this step, information and knowledge gained in Step 1 provide a basis for making data-informed decisions regarding potential application upgrades or digitization. These efforts can help prepare organizations for digitization efforts and ready the applications for future retirement.
You’ve already had success in reducing support costs and freeing up key resources. Now when you find defective data, it will often be traced back to a poorly designed business function. Step 3 is a key component in achieving your digitization goals and it is important that you have the requisite mapping and modeling expertise involved.
Your high-functioning team of domain and application experts will use the function and data models developed in Step 3 as a basis for identifying waste using value stream mapping. Value stream mapping is a powerful visual tool for identifying system “inefficiencies”. This step is critical to optimizing business processes and often leads to a streamlined application landscape.
Artifacts created above are combined with existent data in different ways to create “meaningful insights”. Our process at SYSTEMA is to do the following:
We have repeatedly observed that manufacturers who adopt these fundamental changes to application lifecycle maintenance shift the perception and paradigm of application management from a non-value generating expense to an enabler for innovation and digitalization.
The benefits of digital-age application management and support include:
At SYSTEMA, we have adopted this systematic, holistic approach to application maintenance and support as a means to help manufacturers reduce the risks associated with their Manufacturing IT digitization programs and gain a competitive edge through seamless legacy modernization. We have proven experience in ALM for manufacturing IT environments, and we are on the vanguard of companies applying business-process modeling, function and data models, and machine learning to application lifecycle management and support.
For more information regarding how to approach manufacturing automation strategies, check out SYSTEMA's guide to digital transformation.
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