IT Support in the Manufacturing Hall

Production processes are digital. And they, like today's production companies as a whole, are dependent on functioning IT. The software and hardware used must run stably and reliably, because IT failures lead to massive disruptions. Contacts and communication options available around the clock are essential here. Digital helpers such as chatbots and IT automats offer modern solutions that are convincing.

With the arrival of digitized processes and networked machines in production, the demands on IT as a whole have also changed. IT applications help keep an eye on production, document processes and perhaps even optimize them. They plan and control manufacturing processes in real time and can provide a picture of the actual state of production. Anyone who relies on IT in so many areas must also ensure that communication between IT and production functions smoothly and reliably.

Production and IT

In addition to all the benefits, the increasing dependence of production on IT also entails new risks. If systems fail, production can be delayed or even come to a standstill. And that is precisely why functioning IT support is essential. A good solution is to call in a partner who can guarantee smooth system operation and knows what special demands are placed on IT in a production environment.

A very important point is to align the IT support service times with the various production shifts and times. Special shifts can also occur on weekends, which should not be a problem for the IT support organization. Even when IT-related changes are on the agenda, production must continue to run smoothly, for which close coordination between production, the service desk and on-site support is essential. Mutual understanding, even in tricky situations, is a must and clear communication is extremely important to avoid problems as far as possible in advance. The basis for such understanding is a high level of expertise in both IT and production.

Knowledge of production and IT and their interaction represent important success factors for IT support.

Interdepartmental Knowledge and Know-how

The production-related IT solutions link manufacturing with IT, whereby professional IT support is only possible through a specific know-how mix of employees, consisting of knowledge about IT and production. In practice, however, employees from production and IT naturally bring different knowledge backgrounds from their training - either to IT or to production - which can quickly lead to communication problems, especially when things have to move quickly.

The internal IT organization must ensure and be aligned with this end-to-end know-how. And in the same way, selected external IT service providers must have an understanding of the specific situation and align their processes and solutions accordingly.

However, in order to receive and process fault messages quickly and to carry out initial fault analyses and localizations, all those involved need a good knowledge of production processes and cycles and an understanding of system interfaces, machines and controls.

ScBut how can 24/7 IT support for production be realized? On the one hand, it is essential that IT support can be reached via different, easily usable channels, and on the other hand, that the IT employees are not only always up to date in their job, but also have sufficient knowledge of the production processes.

The telephone channel, which is popular in other industries, may not be usable at all in a production hall due to the noise and sound level there. This is where the use of a chatbot, which can easily be used on a computer screen or even on a smartphone or i-pad, is ideal. It is available day and night and its areas of application and use cases are extremely diverse and can be flexibly expanded. It is capable of immediately retrieving all important information about a malfunction (end user name, what is not working? Where exactly is the problem? Does the defective device have an identification number? etc.) and can then forward the query to the relevant department for a quick solution. If field support is required on site, all the necessary information is immediately available to the responsible employee, who can get started right away.

If smaller devices or individual parts need to be replaced quickly, the use of an IT automat is a good idea. Everything from a computer mouse to a laptop (with mains and power connection) can be stored in flexible compartments and even made available remotely. This means that equipment can be replaced around the clock, efficiently and without waiting. The Hansgrohe company, for example, is already successfully relying on this support concept.

For both chatbots and IT automats, it is important that they are placed exactly where they are needed. The chatbot must be accessible without effort at the service station or on the end devices/systems that are used most, and the IT automat must be placed locally and strategically. Short distances are the key here so that the helpers are actively used by the end users.

Outsourcing of the IT Support 

Not all industrial companies are able to provide enough employees with the required know-how to maintain production IT themselves. For this reason, companies often turn to external IT service providers. This is also the case, for example, with the Austrian construction company PORR, which has outsourced its IT service desk as part of its digitization strategy.

When selecting an IT partner, special attention must be paid to their knowledge of the relevant production and industrial processes. For this purpose, the provider's background should be checked for suitable references during the selection process. IT support service providers without experience in industrial and production IT run the risk of viewing production as a normal IT environment and misjudging the requirements.

Providers with the appropriate experience and the right background can set up and implement support for production-related IT in a targeted and efficient manner. This can facilitate the entire communication in all phases and save time and nerves. The framework of clearly defined activities, key performance indicators (KPIs) and service level agreements (SLAs), including reporting, can then usually also be clarified quickly and easily.