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6 Use Cases for SD WAN in Manufacturing

Digital Transformation is revitalising the modern manufacturing industry which is poised to reach an estimated global value added amount of US$14.83 trillion this year. This resurgence is being driven by the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies such as the internet of things (IoT), industrial internet of things (IIOT), the cloud, edge computing, and artificial intelligence (AI).

The majority of manufacturing organisations have adopted Industry 4.0 initiatives today. According to Interact Analysis’ 2022 Industry adoption survey, 72% of manufacturers that took part in the survey are currently implementing Industry 4.0 endeavours.

Manufacturers have proven that cyber-physical systems bring a myriad of benefits, including efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and sustainability. However, as organisations in the manufacturing industry boost their operations with a slew of new and connected technologies, they must be ready to face novel networking challenges. Unfortunately, these are challenges that existing IT technologies cannot adequately handle, such as network communication issues, internet security concerns, and visibility and monitoring woes.

We discuss 6 Software-defined Wide Area Networking (SD WAN) use cases that the manufacturing industry can use to address key networking challenges.


1. The Ability to Interconnect Multiple Manufacturing Locations

Like with any other critical sector, constant communication is key to efficient and productive operations. Manufacturing organisations that have multiple geographically distributed sites — including remote offices, branches, warehouses, suppliers, and distributors — can keep things running smoothly by having clear and uninterrupted communications over the internet.

The SD WAN architecture can simplify infrastructure management and configuration complexities to give manufacturers streamlined and fast connectivity. Cloud-powered SD WAN can deliver traffic to a variety of transport modes, including broadband, ethernet, fiber, 4G, 5G, and Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS). This can ensure that manufacturers’ applications and remote locations get the traffic they require to support their organisations’ dynamic communications requirements.


2. Centralised Network Management and Configuration

SD WAN can give manufacturers the ability to efficiently organise production activities, control machinery, and have oversight over complex technical processes via its centralised and customised network management and configuration features.

Because SD WAN offers a unified view into one’s network infrastructure, manufacturers can easily see, manage, and tweak their configurations and policies to match their ever-expanding needs. With this, manufacturers can handle their business’ growing demands with increased flexibility and agility.

SD WAN not only provides at-a-glance visibility over the entire network, it also gives manufacturers pertinent information about the services, applications, and resources that they rarely or never use, which can allow them to save money in the long run.


3. Protection Against Security Breaches with its Security Features

Manufacturers with globally distributed sites and employees need secure network connectivity to remain protected against different types of cyberattacks. In a report that shared an analysis of Akamai’s customer data, the healthcare and manufacturing sectors suffered from a 137% increase in API and application-based attacks in 2022.

SD WAN typically comes with several network security features, such as Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), firewalls, VPN services, and intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS), that can help manufacturers mitigate risks and avoid costly and operations-stopping cyberattacks.

SD WAN also supports microsegmentation, which organisations can use to separate their networks based on roles, allowing them to monitor active connections, detect malicious activity, and prevent intrusions.


4. Monitor Traffic in Real-time to Pinpoint Issues in Outages

Visibility is important in detecting network issues at time zero to prevent financial and operational woes. This is especially true when it comes to industrial manufacturers — unplanned downtime costs organisations as much as US$50 billion per year.

SD WAN can provide a streamlined, accurate, and continuous view of organisations’ network traffic that comes from complex infrastructures, remote sites, and multi-cloud and hybrid environments.

SD WAN provides continuous monitoring, giving network administrators the ability to quickly diagnose network traffic issues and ensure that the organisation’s network performance is always running at excellent levels.


5. Save Productivity and Downtime Costs by Ensuring Redundancy and Failover

As a high-demand sector, manufacturing requires reliable and intelligent network traffic management to reduce downtime and outages, which can be costly and damaging to a company’s reputation. According to the 2022 Hourly Cost of Downtime survey from Information Technology Intelligence Consulting (ITIC), 91% of mid-sized and large enterprises can potentially lose US$300,000 or more just from an hour of outage.

With this, globally distributed sites and employees gain uninterrupted and direct internet access and maintain optimal network performance, resulting in increased productivity.


6. Improve Application Performance (Traffic Prioritisation, Application-aware Routing, Reduce Backhaul Traffic)

Because SD WAN is a flexible networking solution, it can act as a control centre that enables manufacturers to dynamically allocate traffic based on their priorities and policies.

SD WAN also supports application-aware routing or application-driven traffic management. This means that traffic from mission-critical applications will be prioritised, while general, non-critical traffic will be assigned a different, non-critical connection.

With SD WAN, manufacturers can also easily reduce backhaul traffic to improve productivity levels. Backhaul traffic, simply put, is traffic that is returned to a central data centre or an organisation’s headquarters and can cause diminished application performance.


Use Case Comparison: Traditional WAN vs SD WAN in Manufacturing

Although traditional WANs have many benefits, manufacturing organisations that have high growth and agility requirements should consider switching to SD WAN.

As previously mentioned, traditional WANs use data centres to backhaul traffic. And organisations that use WANs will have a difficult time steering traffic to cloud-based applications — ones that organisations need to expand their businesses and improve customer satisfaction. SD WAN connects directly with cloud-based applications, which can allow organisations in the manufacturing sector to keep up with big and ever-burgeoning business demands.

WANs also rely on MPLS, which provide reliable network performance. However, MPLS can be expensive and difficult to configure, particularly for smart factories that involve various layers and forms of technologies. SD WAN is a cost-effective way for organisations to provision their critical traffic without sacrificing efficiency, flexibility, and security.

WANs also require each physical device to be configured separately, which can be difficult, costly, and prone to error, especially for manufacturers that have various sites and offices. With SD WAN, configurations can be deployed automatically, which can reduce manpower and error-related costs.

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