Manufacturing Floor

Imagine a world without manufacturing. Waiting six weeks for a car part instead of enjoying the convenience of two-day shipping from Amazon. It’s clear: manufacturing is the backbone of our modern lifestyle. Yet, this crucial industry often lags in one critical area – Information Technology (IT).

10X Consulting Group has witnessed firsthand the struggles of the manufacturing sector with outdated systems and insufficient IT budgets. Many don’t even have an IT department. But our experience with our newest manufacturing client, a customer that stood out from the typical manufacturing mold, offers a compelling story of transformation and IT modernization.

This client was driven by a need to achieve CMMC certification, pushed by their aerospace industry clients. They knew where they wanted to get but had no idea where to start and needed help through the process. This certification wasn’t just a badge; it was a gateway to more business opportunities and achieving it would mean increased revenue almost overnight. However, their IT was stuck in the past, hindered by outdated practices and a previous service provider that lacked the initiative to innovate. Our challenge was not just to update their IT but to overhaul their technological landscape entirely.

Our journey together began with a comprehensive assessment, identifying immediate needs for network security, endpoint protection, and overall system improvements. We encountered exposed cabling and outdated infrastructure, a network compromised by unsuitable hardware, and internet speeds throttled beyond usability. These issues were not just technical hurdles; they were barriers to business growth and efficiency.

From there, 10X completed an assessment of systems, best practices, and physical and logical security.  As expected, there were several items found that needed to be remediated immediately. Internet stability, network security, Endpoint protection, Active Directory, Azure cost and utilization, and a variety of other systems were found to be not implemented properly or were a cost concern for their future.

10X Consulting Group found issues with exposed cabling in their manufacturing space and the lack of labeling in their MDF and four IDFs.  We also noticed a large amount of insufficient cable standards (CAT5e, CAT3, and four-wire phone cables).  Since they moved to VOIP phones over 2 years ago, it was clear that these old cable types needed to be removed.   And then was their network and internet service provider (ISP). 

When we had our first look at the network, we were a bit shocked by what we found. The previous MSP were utilizing unmanaged switches (TP-Link) that were not suitable for business use. We concluded there may be potential for network loops because these models of switches do not have spanning tree safeguards. We procured enterprise-class switches and replaced the current hardware.  While there was minor improvement, we realized that we only peeled back one layer of the onion.  Since the customer was accessing an Active Directory server through Azure (not Azure AD), we did some analysis on the internet speeds.  They were using coaxial service that was 1Gb/s down and capped at 35Mb/s Up.  The upstream speeds were bad enough to cause performance issues company wide.  However, we also noticed that past 10 a.m. the speeds significantly reduced to far less than the limits. 

Coaxial service by most providers is implemented in loops.  If that loop were to get saturated, then everyone on that loop would suffer.  This was exactly what was going on for this manufacturing company.  Typical coaxial service does not carry any service-level agreement, so the ISP is not required to improve it until they choose to do so.  If there is not enough net new business in that area, they won’t fix it. 

To remedy the crippling inconsistency of speeds, 10X  engaged a fiber provider and started to schedule an installation.  This typically takes three to six months to accomplish, and the business needed immediate relief, so we needed an interim plan.  Luckily, they had a cellular tower near their location.  We ordered and installed a 5G cellular modem and got to a just productive enough state to meet the demands.  In parallel, we negotiated a three-month construction and installation time from the new fiber company.    Once that was in place, we could move on to improving systems.

The transformation didn’t stop at network improvements. We conducted a cost-benefit analysis of their Azure usage, resulting in a significant shift from cloud to on-premises infrastructure, saving the company at a minimum $74,000. This cost included utilizing a 10X owned secondary colocation site with replica servers, making it an easy choice for any business.

Next was time to address production systems and user migrations.  Finding all the supporting shared applications that were installed on desktops or make-shift servers was a daunting task.  They also had a ten-year-old ERP system on Windows Server 2012 R2.  A decision was already made to move to a cloud-based ERP before our arrival, so, we are currently supporting this platform until it decommissions in the near term.

Finally, we modernized their physical IT environment by moving their on-premises gear into the proper environment to utilize in-rack cooling, consolidate IDFs, and in turn laying the foundation for a more efficient and reliable IT system.

Supporting the manufacturing company through this transformation was not just about technical upgrades. It was about building a partnership, aligning with their cybersecurity efforts, and preparing them for the CMMC audit. Our collaboration with Corvid Cybersecurity was instrumental in this phase, ensuring a seamless transition to a more secure and compliant IT infrastructure.

This client and their journey from outdated IT to a modern, efficient system exemplifies our commitment to driving real change. The positive feedback and references we have received are a testament to the impact of our work. It’s a story of partnership, innovation, and the relentless pursuit of excellence in IT for the manufacturing sector. Our commitment to constant improvement through the support phase will keep this business ahead of the curve indefinitely.

This transformation is more than just a project; it’s a blueprint for other manufacturing companies facing similar challenges. It demonstrates that with the right partner, even industries considered the last frontier of IT can achieve remarkable progress and secure their place in today’s digital world.