SD-WAN: Helping Manufacturers Connect their Branch Offices

Young female worker communicating by radio in the factory

According to statistics from the National Association of Manufacturers, for every one job that is created by a manufacturer, four jobs are created elsewhere. By this measure, manufacturing has the highest multiplier effect of any economic sector, with its successes and failures rippling across the entire economy.

One of the reasons why manufacturing plays such an important role across sectors is that the typical manufacturer partners with a consortium of different vendors and suppliers, all while operating numerous branch offices in multiple regions. This creates a great number of stakeholders who must work together to ensure the success of the overall business.

Aligning all of these stakeholders is one of the primary challenges for manufacturers today, especially as they become increasingly reliant on technology and innovation to keep revenues on an upswing. In the past, branch offices were primarily connected via redundant MPLS direct connects, which sufficed in an age where communication between different stakeholders took place only over one or two channels.

Today, manufacturers need to communicate a wealth of information between their different branch offices, vendors and suppliers, and over many different media. Branch offices now utilize unified communications (UC) applications and VoIP to speak in real time, along with an array of office-grade collaboration tools and a bevy of other data aggregation apps that all rely on efficient, high performance wide-area networks (WAN).

For instance, automated asset tracking applications can keep tabs on the supplies within a specific warehouse, immediately alerting the appropriate vendor or branch office when stock runs low to ship out a new order. The whereabouts of these assets must also be tracked and shared among branch offices once they leave a supplier to ensure that production schedules are on track, requiring sensors and beacons that communicate between the suppliers and the different stakeholders over the WAN. These are just a few of the business-critical applications that manufacturers are employing that depend on a very efficient, high performance WAN to operate, as connectivity is beginning to streamline the manufacturing workflow from the top-down.

Managing these connections requires a software-defined approach to WAN (SD-WAN) that allows IT managers to best direct traffic between different offices and applications in the interest of assuring business goals are met. An SD-WAN solution also gives network administrators a platform that enables them to holistically view what can become increasingly complex networks, allowing them to keep tabs on activity and prioritize distributed mission-critical applications while shortening operation cycles.

Although a manufacturer’s footprint may be extensive geographically, SD-WAN allows all of the moving parts of the business to interact as if they were within a single facility. Read more about how manufacturers can implement application-aware SD-WAN solutions and the forward-looking applications that are revolutionizing the industry today.