Manufacturing businesses often face IT challenges, but smaller and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) may not have the resources to handle these challenges on their own. With limited IT staff, they may struggle to manage their technology infrastructure and software systems effectively. This is where IT solutions for manufacturing can make a difference.
Large organizations (let’s say – over 500 computers) have internal IT departments that would be made up of 5-10 staff: that would include a group of desktop support staff; a few network administrators; a specialist, probably a system engineer, and Director or Chief Information Officer.
Within the SMB space, there are several different types of IT services that are prevalent. I am going to outline each of these five types, and what the characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages are. These are the service types we see in the 20-150 computer environments most often:
Best IT Solutions for Manufacturing
Looking for the right IT solutions for manufacturing can be challenging, but understanding the different options available can help you make the best decision for your business. There are several types of IT arrangements to consider, including IT managers, hired guns, part-time IT staff, managed services, and co-managed services.
Managed services and co-managed services are particularly well-suited for the manufacturing industry, as they offer a comprehensive suite of IT skills and can focus on best practices and preventive maintenance. They also provide access to the latest technology and tools, which can be critical in keeping a manufacturing business running smoothly.
By contrast, relying solely on an IT manager or part-time IT staff may leave your manufacturing business vulnerable to downtime and other IT-related issues. Similarly, relying on hired guns may result in a reactive approach to IT management, rather than a proactive one.
Ultimately, the right IT solutions for manufacturing will depend on the specific needs of your business, as well as your budget and other considerations. However, by understanding the different options available and the advantages and disadvantages of each, you can make an informed decision that will help your business thrive.
The IT Manager
When it comes to manufacturing companies, IT solutions are essential for streamlining operations and improving productivity. However, many businesses in this industry struggle with limited IT resources, often relying on a single IT manager or a small team to handle a large number of devices.
In fact, we’ve found that up to 35% of manufacturing companies have just one IT professional managing their entire IT department. This can lead to serious challenges, such as overwork and difficulty performing preventive maintenance.
To ensure optimal IT performance, we recommend following a rule of thumb of one IT professional per 75 devices. With automation tools, this number can be increased to one IT professional per 200 devices. By implementing the right IT solutions for manufacturing companies, businesses can avoid overworking their IT staff and improve their overall efficiency.
- A body is on-site during work hours.
- The IT “cost per hour” is lower.
- Someone who learns your system soup to nuts.
- Liked by staff and management.
- Can help the company find a vision.
- Often overworked.
- Rarely has the full complement of hard skills.
- Not exposed to new technology and knowledge becomes obsolete.
The Hired Guns
In the manufacturing industry, we frequently encounter situations where companies lack an internal IT department to manage their technology needs. Instead, they rely on trusted external IT resources for their IT solutions. We’ve seen this arrangement in approximately 25% of the manufacturing companies we work with.
The reliance on external IT resources means that the manufacturing companies must have a high level of trust in their IT providers. The Hired Guns, as they are often called, must be reliable and able to provide swift IT solutions that keep the company’s operations running smoothly.
However, this approach has its downsides. Companies that outsource their IT services may find it challenging to manage their technology infrastructure effectively. With no dedicated IT personnel within the company, there may be a lack of clear communication, leading to misunderstandings and delays.
To address these issues, it’s essential for manufacturing companies to work with external IT resources that specialize in IT solutions for manufacturing. Such providers understand the unique technology needs of the manufacturing industry and can tailor their services to meet the specific requirements of their clients.
By partnering with IT firms that specialize in IT solutions for manufacturing, companies can ensure that they have access to the expertise and resources necessary to maintain and improve their technology infrastructure. With the right IT solutions in place, manufacturing companies can streamline their operations, increase productivity, and achieve their business objectives.
- Paid and used as needed.
- Very flexible.
- Often very familiar with your needs.
- Resolves issues quickly.
- Rarely perform any preventive maintenance.
- Called when things break rather than before things break.
- Not engaged in the success of the business.
The Part-Time IT Guy
This is a situation we see about 10% of the time. This arrangement tends to happen in small businesses only, and usually involves one staff member who really likes and is good at IT. They often are asked to fix IT issues. Once the company reaches a certain size, this person starts to have a conflict between doing their regular job and the IT work. In some cases, they evolve into an IT Manager (see above). In other cases, they do the basics and then bring in Hired Guns (also see above) to address anything over their heads.
- When you are small, sometimes this is the most cost-effective.
- This can maximize a staff member’s utilization.
- Technically, it’s inexpensive (except – see below).
- This can hide the true cost of IT – nobody really tracks this person’s time.
- Staff could be doing the job they were really hired for (and usually make a lot more money for the company).
- The staff never does proactive maintenance as they need to do their “real” job.
We see this about 20% of the time, although it is rapidly emerging as a popular option. Managed services mean an external company (usually called an MSP) is managing the IT requirements of the business.
Sometimes this is a small one or two-person business. In this case, they would be outsourcing the IT management and maintenance to subcontractors that they manage.
Most MSPs are larger and have a full complement of Project Managers, Desktop Support, Network Administration, System Engineers, and often other specialists.
Managed services essentially occur when a regular engagement and ongoing relationship exists. The Hired Guns can sometimes turn into a Managed Services arrangement, usually when they are more professional and modern. The goal of good Managed Services is to prevent downtime and resolve issues as quickly as possible to keep the MSP costs down and maximize profits. Most modern MSPs offer fixed fee arrangements, so they have the motivation to be efficient and prevent disruptions.
- Often less costly than an IT Manager or In-house IT Team.
- Brings the full suite of IT skills.
- Focuses on best practices and preventive maintenance.
- Off-site resource, so not immediate gratification.
- Can have limited scope, and therefore a false sense of security.
This is the rarest of the types of arrangements and is less than 10% of what we see. In this arrangement, there is a cooperation between some kind of external IT provider (MSP or Hired Guns) and the internal IT team. Most often we see this as outsourcing the specialist or systems engineering to an IT business and keeping desktop and IT Management internally.
In recent years there has been a growing trend towards an arrangement in which an MSP (as described under Managed Services) integrates with the internal IT department and trains and supports the IT team to use MSP Tools. MSP tools are often priced out of the budget of small organizations (there is a minimum purchase requirement that makes them very costly in < 500 desktop organizations). MSPs are able to share these tools with the internal team, coach them, and even set them up to be used. This comes at a small cost but enables the internal team to do much more than they could on their own.
- The best of both worlds.
- Inhouse IT resources and control, with the strengths of MSP.
- Access to tools, best practices, and up-to-date technology.
- Can result in culture and change management issues.
- Can be tricky to make work.
- In-house IT can over-delegate to the MSP and challenge the budget.
Small and medium sized manufacturers face many challenges. Furthermore, IT challenges are not uncommon for manufacturing businesses, especially for smaller and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with limited IT staff. IT solutions for manufacturing can help these businesses manage their technology infrastructure and software systems effectively.
There are five types of IT solutions that are prevalent in 20-150 computer environments: IT managers, hired guns, part-time IT staff, managed services, and co-managed services. Managed services and co-managed services offer a comprehensive suite of IT skills and are well-suited for the manufacturing industry as they provide access to the latest technology and tools that are critical in keeping a manufacturing business running smoothly.
The right IT solution will depend on the specific needs of the business, budget, and other considerations. However, understanding the different options available and the advantages and disadvantages of each can help make an informed decision that will help the business thrive.
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