The impact of the digital age in manufacturing and manufacturing design has driven the creation of electronically stored information (ESI) to never before seen levels. Just a few of the areas seeing a major increase in storage requirements include:
- Complex design files
- Simulation data for design optimization
- Design and estimation information shared between engineering and sales systems/CRM systems
- Parts and assembly files
- Data generated by ERP systems
- Data created on the shop floor
These types of information all add to the load on data storage, and in addition, many firms are encouraging employees to collaborate on projects from different locations and on multiple devices. Keeping versions straight and ensuring the right drawing gets to the shop floor is trickier than ever before. As a result, many manufacturing organizations are using data management tools like Autodesk Vault to manage their digital information and enable their collaboration efforts.
Keeping all of the information up-to-date and readily available to all to people and systems working with the data upstream and downstream is just one side of the issue. All of the critical data being created and stored needs to be protected so that it can be restored in the event of an unforeseen disaster. Backup and disaster recovery are, more than ever before, key strategic IT tasks that allow for business continuity in the face of accident or catastrophe and support litigation requirements in the event of product recalls.
While there are many backup solutions available, some are less robust than others. As a manufacturer, it is vital that you look for a backup solution that can automatically and seamlessly backup all of your critical data. This includes design or CAD data that may have been created using design software such as Autodesk Inventor or AutoCAD that is stored on any device or server, along with composite data you may have stored within your Autodesk Vault solution. If you are still performing manual backups, reconsider that strategy. Unfortunately, humans are just not as reliable as computers regarding their back up regimes. The ability to schedule those automatic backups to eliminate any conflicts between CAD managers and IT departments will keep the peace and enable round the clock work. Another feature to look for is autonomic healing and validation for the restore process. These functions ensure consistency, accuracy, and validity of your data.
No matter which technology a manufacturing organization uses, the more important thing is to determine which data might need to be recovered and how quickly. How deeply has your organization thought through backup and recovery if your engineering design and ERP systems experience a failure? If there is a failure, do you have the means to recover your data as quickly as necessary? When thinking about backup and recovery, there are two important questions to ask:
1) What is our organization’s recovery time objective (RTO)?
2) What is our organization’s recovery point objective (RPO)
RTO – Recovery Time Objective
Recovery time objective is the maximum tolerable amount of time it would take to get systems up and running again after a failure. RTO is by far the most disregarded factor when it comes to determining how protected your computer systems are. Business owners often ask, “Are we backed up?” The answer is usually “yes.” However, many people do not ask the most the important question: “How long will it take to recover our data from backup so that everyone can get back to work?” Applied to your design and manufacturing system, how much downtime could your organization handle? If the shop floor was unable to access data, would it have a major impact on your bottom line? Or, would it simply inconvenience a few users? There are many RTO possibilities, and with each level of service the costs increase, however new technology has made previously unthinkable RTOs an option for organizations of any size.
RPO – Recovery Point Objective
The other important thing to consider is your recovery point objective (RPO), or the maximum tolerable amount of time between data backups. In other words, how often do you run a backup? To determine this, ask the following question: “In the event of a computer failure, are we okay with losing an hour of data? A day of data? How about a week of data?” Note that losing an hour of data does not mean you will be working again within an hour. Rather, it means you have lost an hour of data that you cannot restore – ever. When it comes to your engineering and manufacturing information what is your maximum acceptable data loss? That time frame defines your RPO.
If your company has a very low tolerance for downtime and a requirement to get up and running rapidly after a failure, consider a backup solution that focuses on recovery and provides fast restoration to operations. Every manufacturer – no matter how big or small – should create a backup disaster recovery plan for business continuity, which outlines the RTO and RPO and an associated protocol for every critical application you run.