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What are the best solutions for avoiding downtime in manufacturing?

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What are the best solutions for avoiding downtime in manufacturing?

Downtime is costly for manufacturers —  by one estimate, unplanned outages can reduce the productivity of factories by as much as 20%

Everything from human error to faulty equipment may trigger a downtime incident, with the former being notable for its prevalence in the manufacturing sector. User errors account for almost one-quarter of unplanned downtime in manufacturing, compared to just 9% in other industries, per Vanson Bourne.

In minimizing the risk of production being cut off, manufacturers should focus not just on the core machinery and equipment that is the source of so much human error but also on other essential infrastructure, such as network connectivity and communications services. For example, an unreliable or overcomplicated phone system can be a catalyst for downtime, too. Let’s look at what specific upgrades an industrial facility can perform to reduce the risk of downtime.

Upgrade No. 1: A hosted VoIP system

Some manufacturers continue to rely upon the copper-based private branch exchange systems (PBXes) that their service providers implemented for them years or even decades ago. The age of these PBX implementations can create significant challenges in both the reliability and scalability of critical communications. 

The capacity of a traditional on-prem PBX is limited by its hardware. Plus, adding more users and lines to it as the company grows is often a capital- and labor-intensive project. New equipment must be purchased, configured and maintained. Even once that’s done, there’s the risk of this cobbled-together system not providing an acceptable level of service, for instance within a busy call center.

Hosted VoIP addresses all of these problems by giving manufacturers a more versatile digital phone system. Capacity can be added and managed within software, while the service provider ensures the deployment stays up around the clock. Additional features like hosted receptionist consoles, auto attendants and CRM integration make hosted VoIP a substantial upgrade over an analog PBX.

The end result? A phone system that grows alongside the manufacturing business. Moves, adds and changes are straightforward, as is ensuring that employees have consistent access to their calls, messages and more from multiple devices. In this way, hosted VoIP is built for the era of ubiquitous mobile devices and cloud services. It’s software- rather than hardware-centric and as such is both flexible and scalable, on top of being highly reliable.

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Upgrade No. 2: Dedicated internet access (DIA)

A standard broadband business internet plan may not be enough for many manufacturers, as they need the highest possible reliability and protections for their communication networks. This is where a DIA deployment can make all the difference in whether a critical network goes down or stays up.

Compared to broadband, DIA offers a broader range of features and assurances. First of all, its bandwidth is guaranteed. Unlike plans that require bandwidth to be shared between multiple subscribers, a DIA package reserves all of its advertised bandwidth for its designated customer. A robust service-level agreement (SLA) also specifies network performance characteristics, and more specifically the levels of uptime and latency that manufacturers can expect while using the dedicated network.

Second, this bandwidth is also symmetrical, meaning the upload and download speeds are the same. In contrast, non-dedicated internet often features much faster download rates than uploads, especially if it runs over regular cable TV infrastructure. 

Finally, it comes with many built-in protections and managed services. A DIA service provider like Telesytem may offer 24/7 monitoring of the network as well as mitigation of distributed denial-of-service attacks for no extra charge. These additions make DIA perfect in the larger context of ever-present cybersecurity threats that can compromise manufacturing operations. Indeed, almost half of manufacturers have suffered a cybersecurity incident, according to MakeUK.

Overall, the performance of a DIA network is much more reliable and secure than non-dedicated alternatives. The guaranteed bandwidth is particularly helpful for running bandwidth-intensive applications like hosted VoIP and unified communications suites, which require real-time performance and are highly sensitive to latency, jitter and packet loss.

Upgrade No. 3: Cloud and managed services

Cloud computing has significantly changed the way manufacturers operate. Essential systems such as platforms for enterprise resource planning, financial planning and data analytics have gradually evolved from on-premises implementations to cloud-based alternatives that are more economical and flexible. Two-thirds of manufacturers surveyed by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation of the American Enterprise Institute professed using at least some form of cloud computing in their operations.

In addition to superior scale and more manageable costs relative to traditional IT, cloud services remove burdens on internal IT teams, who no longer have to continually maintain and upgrade so much on-site infrastructure. Cloud services can put many essential workflows into the hands of an experienced provider capable of overseeing them 24/7, giving IT more time to focus its efforts elsewhere.

Teleystem’s cloud services leverage secure, geographically redundant data centers and a network of trusted partners to make life easier for manufacturers. Available cloud services include database management, remote monitoring and enterprise software virtualization.

Upgrade No. 4: Managed Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi dead spots are bad news for the growing array of wirelessly networked devices in many manufacturing environments. From advanced robots and inventory scanners to VoIP phones and cameras, there is no shortage of hardware requiring strong wireless connectivity throughout the factory floor.

A professionally managed Wi-Fi solution can help address the most common issues in ensuring consistent factory connectivity. Managed Wi-Fi is deployed, monitored and maintained by a service provider, with customizable bandwidth along with robust security and privacy protections. Telesytem’s own turnkey managed Wi-Fi solution includes all required hardware — switches, routers, firewalls, access points, etc. — and cloud-based management. Learn more by checking out this managed Wi-Fi overview page.

Telesystem can help your manufacturing business implement all of the upgrades discussed here and others as needed, including SIP trunks and broadband. Contact a member of our team directly to get started! 

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