“We wanted to see without being there.” —Tory Johnson, Director of Integrated Supply Chain Fulfillment Engineering, IBM
Virtual Control Center
Web-based tool allows engineers to troubleshoot manufacturing test facilities worldwide
IBM had a problem—how to manage and troubleshoot the worldwide test operations that produce low-end and midrange IBM Power Systems servers and blades. The company operates three of its own facilities, plus 14 business partners in Europe and Asia, as well as one contract manufacturer in South America and an OEM partner in Europe.
Until 2010, IBM’s external fulfillment sites received technical support from a limited number of dedicated test engineers via a VPN connection to the external sites. The method to connect to these sites was manual. It was time-consuming to share test logs or give a technical expert access to the manufacturing environment to diagnose a problem.
IBM needed a way to monitor and access all of these test floors, regardless of location, while maintaining corporate security policies. “We wanted to see without being there,” said Tory Johnson, IBM director of integrated supply chain fulfillment engineering in Rochester, MN.
The solution: Virtual Control Center (VCC), a Web-based tool that gives technical and subject-matter experts real-time test floor status and access to test cells at a remote site located within the corporate network, or connected via the Internet at a partner company. Not only does this give IBM the ability to virtually “take” the expert to the problem, but it also enables flexibility for locating fulfillment operations.
The project, which started during the fourth quarter of 2008, was deployed during the first quarter of 2010. The VCC uses open-source software, which allows the IBM project team to develop its own systems application code. According to IBM, the result was zero expenses and projected savings of $2 million a year due to reduced or eliminated travel and labor costs.
More than 250 test servers and over 8,000 test cells are now accessible via VCC. Experts have visibility to the test process and products running in development labs, EMI labs, manufacturing sites, light fulfillment centers, re-utilization centers, business partners, contract manufacturers, vendors, and OEM partners. Users need only a Web browser and access privileges. With a few clicks, the VCC tool makes a secure connection to the remote site and opens up the remote console.
In recognition of this success, IBM VCC received a 2011 PM100 Award for Data & Integration Mastery.