As the nation’s largest wholesaler for edible oils, this food manufacturer competes in an industry that must continuously adapt to changing market conditions. With a global pandemic roiling supply chains and budget uncertainty looming on the horizon, the customer’s IT leadership was eager to embrace the public cloud. But getting there would require a new recipe.
A Tall Order for IT: Modernize While ‘Keeping the Lights On’
With more than 1,500 employees distributed across more than 15 manufacturing facilities in the United States and Canada, Scale Computing’s customer is one of the leading food manufacturers in North America. To say that their operations are both complex and interdependent would be a vast understatement. The company manufactures more than a thousand individual product SKUs and produces over three billion pounds of finished goods each year. In addition to manufacturing a broad array of food products, the company also manages the packaging, labeling, and distribution of products for a range of customers that include wholesalers, suppliers, and restaurants.
The company’s Director of IT Infrastructure oversees a team of just nine full-time staff members who together spend their days maintaining a patchwork of aging IT systems to ensure business operations keep running with minimal disruption. Says the IT Director, “as a food manufacturer, we have to squeeze efficiency from every corner of our infrastructure. And because our profit margins are razor thin, we are constantly being asked to do more with less. However, we spend so much of our collective time just trying to keep the lights on, that it’s pretty challenging to find the time to think strategically about how IT can transform the business.”
“Agility is important in every industry but it’s absolutely crucial in the food manufacturing industry. Because seasonal conditions can cause sudden and dramatic swings in the cost of raw materials – for instance, if a drought causes the supply of soybean oil to drop and the price to rise – we need to be able to quickly find a cheaper alternative. Having a constrained budget and high market volatility means you have to be extremely agile just to get to what others consider to be ‘table stakes’.”
A large, multi-billion dollar North American-based food manufacturer and marketer of branded and custom made food items for the foodservice, retail and ingredient manufacturing industries.
+ High application availability and persistent connectivity are mandatory
+ Complex IT environment with disparate technology stack across multiple locations
+ Limited budget, lack of skilled IT staff
+ Wanted the flexibility of a cloud environment with the stability of on-premise computing
+ Agility and responsiveness to volatile market conditions
THE SCALE COMPUTING SOLUTION
+ Easily scalable to meet future network demands
+ Low entry cost point, fast ROI
+ Simplified deployment meant limited IT staff didn’t need to travel offsite
+ 24x7 support, backed by expert
+ Simplified Deployment: Pre-configured and standardized builds of infrastructure components has alleviated IT complexity and mitigated the need to send IT staff to remote locations
+ Built-in Redundancy: Automated failover of systems provides additional layer of assurance to IT and the line of business
+ Fast ROI: Ability to quickly deploy infrastructure helped build a business case for future IT investments
+ Virtualization Savings: Realized immediate savings of at least $30K in VMware licensing and certification fees
Scale Computing HC3 Helps Bridge the Cloud Gap
The maturity of public cloud services has been a game changer to resource-strapped industries, enabling them to offload the burden of IT management and focus on their core business. But for all its advantages, there remain numerous practical concerns such as network and application latency issues that can introduce a variety of risk factors to everyday operations.
While the food manufacturer’s CIO had set an aggressive goal of achieving a ‘zero IT footprint’ in their plants as a way to increase the efficacy of their small IT team, they recognized that the path to get there would be difficult. “If a component fails, the plant stops,” says the IT Director. “We knew that making the leap from a physical footprint to a non-physical footprint wouldn’t happen overnight.”
To put it plainly, downtime was simply not an option. Because so many of the critical ERP applications are so intertwined with other core operational workflows, even a small amount of downtime could quickly bring other systems to a grinding halt. As the company explains, “we have print functions that are contained within the ERP system which are used to produce bills of lading for delivery trucks. If a truck with perishable items gets stuck at the staging area waiting for a print out, it has a ripple effect that hits our bottom line.”
Recognizing these constraints, the IT leadership began investigating new approaches that would effectively shrink and standardize their IT footprint, enable their small team to remotely manage these resources, and provide the automated redundancy their business required. Which is how they came to learn about Scale Computing’s solution and quickly realized it would serve as a practical bridge between these two disparate operating models. “Scale Computing essentially became our hybrid cloud solution,” the IT Director says. “You pick a technology that starts you down the path. Maybe you begin with site to site recovery, then you move to cloud recovery and with every step, you are minimizing your dependency to the physical equipment in your facility.”
We don’t have the same disposable IT budgets that are the norm in other industries. Every dollar we spend needs to made with surgical precision.
Scale Computing Makes Remote IT Deployment Simple and Cost Effective
Implementing an IT modernization initiative is a challenging endeavor in the best of times. Doing so in the midst of a global pandemic where only workers deemed ‘essential’ are allowed inside a facility, makes it all the more challenging. Which is why the IT team was excited by the inherent simplicity of deploying Scale Computing HC3 infrastructure to their remote facilities.
“In this current climate, with so much uncertainty around as to when we will be allowed to physically visit one of our remote locations, we needed to make deployment simple,” says the IT Director. “With Scale Computing we are able to build out a device, put it back in its box, send it out, and anyone with some basic skills at the facility can put it into a rack, match up the color-coded connections together, and be up and running and able to recover from one site to another.”
From a cost perspective, manufacturers look at IT spending through a different lens than other industries. Capital expenditures for equipment are significantly higher and subject to different depreciation schedules – all of which has a direct impact on the investment lifecycle.
“The total ROI over a short period of time is very important to us because as a public entity we have the same financial burden in which some expenses need to be depreciated over five years. So if you're buying something that you can't write off in two to three years, you're just setting yourself up to be constantly behind in these five-year increments. So the entry cost of the Scale Computing solution was really appealing as we are able to realize a lot of value right off the bat and minimize our write-offs.”
The company has also realized other significant sources of savings from their initial deployment. “In just one location, we anticipated having to stand up no fewer than 10 VMware virtual machines which represented an immediate savings of $30k, not to mention several thousand dollars in certification and training fees.”
ABOUT SCALE COMPUTING
Scale Computing is a leader in edge computing, virtualization, and hyperconverged solutions worldwide. Scale Computing HC3® software uses self-healing and automation to maximise application uptime and performance, simplify management, and protect data. When ease of use, high availability, and total cost of ownership matters, Scale Computing HC3 is the ideal IT infrastructure platform for distributed enterprises, global retailers, and SMBs alike. Scale Computing is highly rated and highly reviewed on Gartner Peer Insights, Spiceworks, TechValidate and TrustRadius.