Where the rubber meets the road at Dell Technologies
How much does a second cost you? In the manufacturing facilities at Dell Technologies, the answer is – MILLIONS! The cumulative cost of building and testing millions of units means that shaving mere seconds off of any part of the manufacturing process can have an impact on the company overall.
Presenting at IoT World 2017, John Biegel, Dell Technologies VP of Global Operations, is sharing Dell’s story of transformation global operations using IoT. Using Microsoft Azure, Dynamics 365 and Dell IoT Gateway devices, and teaming up with Microsoft and Microsoft Partner mcaConnect, Dell was able to streamline the manufacturing & testing process to reduce errors, increase satisfaction and improve overall factory efficiency.
Through these initial projects, Dell learned these 5 valuable lessons worth sharing:
1. Focus on the framework
Because Dell has such a large footprint, scalability and repeatability is a top priority for the company. Even smaller companies will benefit from creating processes, procedures and templates. Even without large scale factories, a framework can provide guidance for your next IoT projects. Most companies have lots of IoT ideas. The challenge is in prioritizing the projects, and creating a smooth experience for users.
2. Leverage tools you already have
One of the biggest time-savers and risk-reductions of Dell’s IoT projects was learning that Window 10 LTSB (long term service branch) images come with built-in security. These devices by their nature are secure. The fact that Microsoft doesn’t patch them very often makes them very stable. These images come pre-loaded with all the firewall, anti-virus & back-up software used throughout the organization.
Since Dell was already using Microsoft Dynamics 365 (formerly called Microsoft Dynamics AX), the ERP system did not have to be ripped and replaced. Instead, Dell was able to extend the existing solution with IoT gateway devices connected to cloud (Azure) storage.
3. Embrace automation & innovation
It’s no secret that manufacturing is often a laggard when it comes to adopting new technology. The ethos of engineers is reflected in our practical nature. However, the world has changed – especially the manufacturing world. PLC (programmable logic controllers) that used to cost thousands of dollars can be replaced by IoT gateway devices that cost a fraction of that amount. These new IoT devices simply work better, faster and provide more information than ever before available. Since more data can be captured, companies have the opportunity to use predictive analytics, machine learning and big data to reduce defects and improve overall customer experience.
4. Push decisions to the edge
Dell’s driving philosophy for its IoT projects was finding ways to “push decisions to the edge.” Manufacturing decisions have historically been driven by a centralized decision making system, both human and machine – even though it’s always the shop floor that has the real insight. In an environment where every second counts, saving seconds can mean saving millions of dollars.
IoT devices alleviate a major bottle neck for manufacturers because information doesn’t have to be relayed up to a centralized server and sent back to the device. All the information it needs is stored right within the device. As units roll through the assembly line, the IoT device contains all the information it needs to direct the unit – straight, to the left, or divert it for further testing. That may save 3-5 seconds at multiple touch points in the process.
5. Get started.
Dell Technologies prides itself on being innovative, a leader among leading technology companies. Soon, companies will have little choice. The combination of affordable IoT devices and cloud data storage offer such a strong, ongoing competitive advantage, that those who choose to wait may find themselves falling further and further behind.
You can choose to disrupt or be disrupted. Your choice!
Written by: Doug Bulla, Senior Vice President, Business Development