The importance of support and maintenance agreements for critical manufacturing OT systems

With the advent of Industry 4.0, technology is playing a more prominent role than ever in the modern manufacturing enterprise. The modern production environment relies heavily on technology and digital systems to do everything from ordering raw materials to operating machinery and handling dispatch. But what happens when we take that technology for granted? What happens when it stops working and begins to affect an entire manufacturing facility? Chris Barlow, Technical Director at Astec IT Solutions, explains why OT support and maintenance agreements are so essential and just as important as enterprise IT support and maintenance contracts.

As manufacturers move towards an integrated digital operating environment with ever increasing connectivity between critical IT and OT infrastructure at the centre of this industrial transformation, many plants have undergone a major shift towards embracing digitalisation to help them gain a competitive edge.

Of course, any technology investment requires a considered approach towards in-house maintenance and it is likely that Plant Operators/Managers and Operational staff will find themselves constantly upgrading their skills in order to keep pace with advancing technology. Having an internal team dedicated to keeping systems running can be great, but it can also place considerable strain on business should members of the team move on to new jobs, or take leave for an extended period of absence. Not having the correct technical people available can pose a risk for manufacturing businesses and in the worst circumstances, could even lead to a plant shutdown.

One solution is to have an outside Support and Maintenance contract with a company such as Astec IT Solutions. This will ensure that you always have ongoing technical support to safeguard your operation, regardless of whether you need to urgently resolve production issues, require general maintenance or ad-hoc system changes to satisfy customer demand.

Peace of mind is not the only reason for having a good support and maintenance contract in place. If you don’t have a contract that covers your needs, you could end up paying for expensive and unbudgeted ad-hoc services. Often, the pricing for ad-hoc support and maintenance can mount up above the monthly cost for an all-inclusive service. Furthermore, ad-hoc services are usually outside of any Service Level Agreement (SLA) so you could end up waiting an unacceptable length of time for a resolution.

When you have an effective support and maintenance contract, it is in the support contract provider’s best interest to keep your system working as smoothly as possible. Your provider doesn’t earn any extra money when they have to send an engineer on-site, so a good, support and maintenance provider will be performing a lot of preventative maintenance and pro-active monitoring.

The logical outcome of all the preventative maintenance measures mentioned above, is that your systems should be more reliable. Astec IT Solutions has an excellent continuous remote monitoring option available to report on real-time equipment and system status, enabling us to provide an early warning of any issues that may affect your operation before they cascade and become a major problem, saving you from unplanned downtime and the associated financial losses.

To learn more about our range of flexible support plans which provide expert technical support and ongoing system maintenance click here.