Case Study

IT Support Delivers Manufacturing Edge

Overview

Part of the $15 billon Kawasaki Heavy Industries multinational, the Plymouth-based Precision Machinery division is at the forefront of hydraulic technology and development. ITEC provides IT support, IT infrastructure services and Managed Print to Kawasaki’s UK operation.


The Challenge

IT at Kawasaki has a vital role. Unresolved issues on the production shop floor can have serious knock-on effects that can cost money – for example, potentially incurring cost penalties from customers for late delivery.

It is a demanding environment, and sometimes difficult to distinguish between the important and the urgent. With lots of fires to fight, a hard-pressed IT department of two people was supporting 14 servers and 150 end users.

In Information System Manager Nick Crawford’s words: “The support requirements meant our backs were against the wall. It made it hard for us to drive projects and deliver the best service to the company.”

The Solution

The IT team wanted to increase its value to the business and create the time and space to assess and propose potential new technologies that could be game-changers.

The company turned to ITEC for help. ITEC (then known as STEM) had already been responsible for putting in place a very stable network and robust wireless infrastructure across Kawasaki’s Plymouth facility.

Next, with ITEC’s help, Kawasaki took its first steps into server virtualisation, installing six VMware based servers that smoothed administration and allowed the IT team to proactively monitor issues. There was an immediate, positive impact on productivity.

“We took our time to identify the right partner,” explains Nick Crawford. “We noticed straightaway that ITEC listened and took the time to understand our requirements. ITEC is not arrogant or dogmatic. That’s why solutions we’ve adopted have always come out of in-depth discussions between ITEC and ourselves.”

ITEC continues to provide IT support to the whole business, both shop floor and back office. “ITEC knows us inside out and that’s invaluable,” comments Nick Crawford. “That support has become an integral part of our business. The fabric of our business is very reliable.”

Kawasaki is in a fast-moving market. For example, one newer area of focus is the smaller, mobile market, and this sort of change implies shifts in what the production shop floor expects and needs from IT. That in turn explains why a stable and well supported back-end infrastructure is a fundamental backbone of Kawasaki’s sustained business.

The IT department is measured against strict KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). These include ensuring system uptime for a specified percentage of time, since downtime could translate into missed shipments and thus increased cost to the business. Another KPI is to close down a target number of support requests and deliver quick resolutions to keep the shop floor running productively.

Working with ITEC the company has also implemented a Managed Print solution to drive out unnecessary costs and eliminate wastage. In pursuit of that goal, Kawasaki had previously sourced its printers direct from a manufacturer but felt the manufacturer regarded them as a small customer, not worthy of too much attention. ITEC’s team transformed the dynamics of the Managed Print relationship.

But Kawasaki is not the kind of company to rest on its laurels. The next exciting phase aims to eliminate paper from the shop floor altogether – in effect, introducing a paper-less shop floor.

As Nick Crawford explains: “In a fast-moving production department, a paper document is effectively out of date as soon as it has been printed.”

To deliver on this vision, the company is working with ITEC on a project to introduce 30 Citrix VDI clients on the shop floor. It means everyone across the shop floor will have access to live up-to-the-minute data on production schedules and timings.

Such an initiative is helping to raise the profile of IT within the company. Directors can see the value add that IT can deliver. It is no longer just a cost centre but an active contributor to the continuing success of Kawasaki Precision Machinery.

Smarter Working

ITEC delivers a number of services to our business but the common threads running through every aspect of the partnership are a deep understanding of our business, combined with truly excellent customer service.

Agility

We no longer struggle to keep the business up and running. Our systems are reliable and well supported. This has put us in a position to really think about how we use IT to push the business forward and deliver the best possible service to the company.