Case Study

Manufacturer Assures Production Apps in Remote Factories



The Challenge
  • Poor performing production application in global factories
  • Lacked visibility into their remote plant data centers for performance assurance
The Solution
  • nGeniusONE® Service Assurance solution
  • InfiniStreamNG® appliances
  • nGenius® Packet Flow Switches
  • NETSCOUT® Premium Support Engineer
The Results
  • Lower MTTR for problems with production performance management application
  • Improved collaboration between Corporate IT, local plant personnel, and third-party vendors

Customer Profile

This U.S.-based, global manufacturer produces heavy-duty equipment under multiple brand names. With production plants in more than a dozen countries, the company has held their organization to high-quality standards in industrial processes to maintain their reputation as a world-class manufacturer. Timeliness and productivity are critical to meeting quota goals and objectives in both their parts manufacturing and final assembly plants for local delivery to sales channels and end-users.

Digital transformation had been a strategic initiative for this manufacturer over the last several years, having invested in software-defined networking with Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) technology in their data centers, as well as cloud-based collaborations services with Google Meets and Google Docs. To ensure quality end-user experience with the new technologies and all their other network and application services, the IT organization had a long-standing relationship with their service assurance partner NETSCOUT.

The Challenge

The IT staff used their NETSCOUT nGeniusONE Service Assurance solution with InfiniStreamNG (ISNG) appliances for real-time packet monitoring at their data centers and headquarters locations for several years. When performance issues occurred with key business applications or with their multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) rollout, the IT staff leveraged nGeniusONE to reduce the mean time to troubleshoot the cause and restore (MTTR) quality service to their employees, partners, and customers.

One of the most important applications for this manufacturer is a plant floor performance management service (PFS) used to specify feature options for the equipment, track the building and assembly processes, perform quality checks at the end of production, and note repairs if they were required. With the PFS, the initial order originated at headquarters, was sent through the application servers in one of the main data centers, over MPLS, to the factory closest to the order for assembly. Delays or disruptions in the performance of this application will slow production and, if severe enough, could impact plant quotas and delivery commitments.

The IT staff had visibility to evaluate and troubleshoot issues with this application in the data centers. However, once it hit the carrier’s MPLS network, there was a gap in visibility into application performance in the production plants that complicated IT’s ability to assure quality delivery was maintained throughout the entire communications cycle. As issues with this application were increasing in some of the plants, it became a priority for IT to gain visibility to investigate and resolve the problems before production schedules were further impacted.

Solution in Action

The IT team for this manufacturer turned to NETSCOUT to determine the best approach to gain visibility at their worldwide factories. Following analysis of the network and application infrastructures at the plants, they decided to use an nGenius Packet Flow Switch to tap key segments in the local plant data center to send copies of network traffic to their monitoring devices.

  • The segment coming in from the MPLS provider, also known as the WAN Network Edge, was targeted, since this location would give them visibility and control at the point where traffic was passed to a third party. They tapped the network before the firewall and forwarded traffic downstream, through the nGenius Packet Flow Switch, to an ISNG appliance for monitoring, troubleshooting, and capacity planning activities. This would provide visibility into responsiveness and degradations impacting any application in and out of the factory network, between either the corporate data centers or the cloud.
  • They also targeted the core of the factory data center in the application server farm, also known as the data center Service Edge, to monitor the high concentration of critical conversations in this part of the network. The nGenius Packet Flow Switch would forward the traffic from the local data center ethernet segment to another ISNG to provide visibility for service assurance of applications running on the production floor and among the employees at the plant.

Smart data from the ISNG appliances in the plants was analyzed using the nGeniusONE solution centralized in the manufacturer’s headquarters. The IT staff, along with a Premium Service Support Engineer (PSE) from NETSCOUT, had configured dashboards and workflows to tackle some of the issues the factory personnel had been grappling with, specifically, the delays and disruptions in their PFS application. Their troubleshooting analysis of the smart data identified a quality of service (QoS) mismatch issue. Assignment of the PFS application outbound from the corporate data center was correct at 26. However, it was coming into the data center as 0. The third-party MPLS provider had emphatically assured the manufacturer that their network was NOT changing the QoS. With the new ISNGs in the local plant, it was determined a network switch at the plant was not applying the correct QoS class to the PFS application. By configuring the local plant network switch correctly, the IT team solved this issue.

The Results

The additional visibility at the company’s world-wide factories is helping reduce MTTR to pinpoint issues with critical manufacturing applications that impact production, quota attainment, and overall product delivery. It has taken guesswork out of the troubleshooting equation and made collaboration more cooperative and highly effective for both factory personnel and third-party vendors based on concrete evidence from the local plant networks and the corporate data center.

The manufacturer is also extending the value of the investments they’ve made in their corporate nGeniusONE solution, as it helps provide analysis beyond the original scope of their data centers, effectively putting eyes and ears in remote locations where there may not be IT professionals.