Manufacturing is a global company that manufactures plastic products including beverage containers, custom plastic parts, and plastic fan parts. Their products serve a variety of customers including automotive manufacturers, aircraft and appliance part manufacturers, the Department of Defense, bottlers, and beverage makers. Dr. Riordan, who started the company by leasing the rights to plastics manufacturing patents, realized the commercial opportunity of these processes and founded the company in 1991.
They now employ 550 people, project earnings of $46 million for the current fiscal year, and are recognized as a Fortune 1000 enterprise with revenues in excess of $1 billion. The explosive growth experienced by Riordan Manufacturing over recent years has placed a strain on the information systems infrastructure of the company. Acquiring additional facilities with disparate systems has led to operational inefficiencies, particularly in the inventory management and manufacturing arenas, resulting in the issuance of a formal service request to the technology team.
This paper will provide an overview of the current telephone and data networks for Riordan and recommendations for improvements, which may be necessary. Overview of Existing Telephone Systems Riodan Manufacturing has a telephone and data network where the hub of the network is located in San Jose, California and connects to three locations in Michigan, Georgia, and China. The Riodan Manufacturing Company has a VoIP telephone system. “VoIP is only the first step in the telecommunications evolution taking place online. Next up is ‘unified communication,’ a technology pursued by Microsoft, Cisco and others.
Unified communications is the use of advanced technology to replace traditional telecommunications infrastructure such as PBX, fax and even the desktop telephone. ” Telecommunications Systems Move Online Including Unified Communications, Telepresence (2008). Employees can use software that is installed on their computer, on a mobile device or from a remote computer to access the “…VoIP phone service, email, voice mail, fax, instant messaging (IM), collaborative calendars and schedules, contact information such as address books, audio conferencing and video conferencing. VoIP technology expands the use of telecommunications beyond the traditional telephone system. “Microsoft states that it believes that unified communications will soon transform business in the same way that email changed the business landscape in the 1990s. ” Telecommunications Systems Move Online Including Unified Communications, Tele-presence (2008). “Unified communications will drive the next major advancement in individual, team and organizational productivity in today’s 24×7, always-connected and increasingly mobile work environment,” Raikes said.
According to Raikes, Microsoft plans to change the way people communicate in a business by integrating telecommunications with Microsoft’s products. Microsoft News (2006). “The company will bring together its popular corporate e-mail offerings of Microsoft Exchange Server, which includes new unified messaging capabilities, Microsoft Office Outlook®, and Microsoft Speech Server, with updated versions of its real-time collaboration technologies and a set of new communications devices to form a cohesive unified communications solution.
Built on a rich platform and supported by the extensive capabilities of its growing partner ecosystem, Microsoft’s unified communications offerings will deliver seamless comprehensive and integrated communications capabilities for businesses. ” Microsoft News (2006). A disadvantage of not implementing unified communications is that the Riordan Manufacturing Company would not take advantage of the features that are available to enhance business communication. Current Network Topology
Riordan Manufacturing current topology consists of four separate star topology LAN’s (Local Area Networks) consisting of a Mesh Network to interconnect all WAN (Wide Area Networks) links. Internal network speed varies from 10-100 Mbps and backbones interconnecting each site vary from Fractional T-1 to Full T-1 (1. 544Mbps). Pre-requisite to any systems improvements considered for Riordan Manufacturing’s operations is an examination of their current computer hardware, database management structure, and resource management systems.
In considering the computer hardware that comprises Riordan Manufacturing’s IT infrastructure, immediately apparent, nearly all major computer systems are in need of upgrade in order to provide the platform on which to implement the modern systems needed for operational improvement. While a breakdown of each individual facility will not be included in this report, the technology team has chosen the Albany, Georgia facility as the basis for a blueprint available at the other Riordan sites. Proposed Network Topology
Among the chief concerns, here is the server hardware currently in place. In order to implement a high-performance database structure and a comprehensive enterprise resource-planning package, not to mention to meet the increasing demands of modern operating systems and application software, an upgrade to Pentium IV class hardware is required. We must address operating systems as well,; whether to move from the older Windows NT to a more modern system, preferably Windows 2003 Server for the file/print, exchange, and ERP servers.
Networking equipment such as the current 100 Mbps switches throughout the facility requires updating to support new gigabit Ethernet and fiber optic transmission protocols. Connections to the main corporate office requires examination as well, as advances in bandwidth and the distributed database structure described below will require the now standard 3-5 Mbps transmission speeds common in the marketplace. Employee workstations, with some currently running decade-old Pentium I and II technology, could withstand an upgrade to modern Pentium IV machines with 2. 5 Gigahertz or more of processing speed and upgraded RAM capacities.
A vendor-neutral representation of an updated hardware configuration, shown below, represents a significant portion of the investment required in making the needed changes in the inventory and manufacturing processes. Next for consideration is the database management handling. Currently, each location maintains a database, mainly due to acquiring these facilities and inheriting the existing systems. While the technology team recommends that the practice of each facility maintaining a database continue, a move to a unified database management system across all facilities is crucial for the implementation of the proposed systems and processes.
Not only will this facilitate the current system proposal, but this also has implications for future systems enhancements that will resolve many of the difficulties Riordan has in dealing with other disparate systems such as accounting. The most likely choice for a database management system is Oracle. As the scope of this service request deals exclusively with the inventory and manufacturing processes, the technology team made this choice primarily due to the Warehouse Management capabilities of this software, as support for odern inventory systems such as radio frequency identification (RFID) is included with this package (Oracle Warehouse Management, 2008). Under the proposed changes, each facility would manage an Oracle platform in a distributed database configuration. This provides performance benefits for the users in these facilities and allows the corporate office in San Jose to poll data and reporting on demand from each facility’s database, a capability not currently afforded to them.
At the heart of the process and systems improvements needed in Riordan Manufacturing is the implementation of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) software package such as IQMS at all Riordan facilities. A fundamental problem that has presented itself to the company is the use of disparate systems across the company’s three production facilities. Key to improving the efficiency and productivity of their operations is the implementation of a single, unified systems platform such as that offered by IQMS.
This will allow the proposed procedural and systems changes discussed below to be implemented consistently across the company’s facilities, gaining efficiencies through establishing best practices and standard operating platforms. IQMS is a modular ERP, specifically designed for plastics manufacturers. The core package consists of inventory control, manufacturing, and planning modules that apply directly to Riordan’s systems as well as sales, distribution, and financial management modules for concurrent or later implementation.
The key benefit to IQMS is its modularity, allowing the addition of other modules desired by the company, such as EDI for supplier involvement in the inventory process and wireless warehouse and production management (IQMS, 2008). In short, the ideal choice for implementation that provides the user interface between Riordan’s employees and the Oracle database systems and provides the backbone on which the proposed process automations will run.
With upgraded computer hardware, networking, database management, and enterprise resource planning systems in place, attention can be turned toward the specific inventory and manufacturing processes that can be improved through their implementation. The first of these for consideration is the raw materials receiving process. Switching The current switches set up at the corporate office in San Jose, CA begins with a 100BaseT Ethernet switch to route all traffic between the hardware. Two 24 port Cisco switches are used to connect 35 department computers to the network.
The Research ; Development department have a designated Ethernet switch, probably due to the sensitive nature of the information they use, using a Gateway switch to connect their 15 MAC G5s, three printers and one HP plotter into the network. A second Gateway switch is used to connect the R;D Ethernet to the company’s satellite transmission between offices. One Linksys 24 port hub connects two blade servers and an IBM pSeries 6E4 Multiprocessor to the network. The company have two VOIP/Data routers, one connecting to the outside internet and one connecting to the company’s internal network (via satellite).
The China location has a very similar set up to the corporate office, with a 100Base T Ethernet switch linking and routing network activity from the servers to the switches and routers. They have two individual VOIP/Data routers connecting to the outside internet and internal network via satellite, and use Cisco, Gateway and Linksys 24 port switches, with an additional 8-port hub linked into eight LaserJet V printers. The current 100BaseT Ethernet switches are sufficient for these two offices, considering the size of the company. These switches are fast and work well with CAM – computer-aided manufacturing (Johnson, Tittel, Tomsho, 2004).
As Riordan is a manufacturing company, they probably use this type of software and hardware, or will use it in the near future. The universal power supply (UPS) appears to be unattached to the network; this requires a link up through cabling. The Albany and Pontiac locations have much of the same switching equipment, Nortel hubs and patch panels connecting the desktops, printers, servers and UPS together. These locations would benefit from installing a 100Base-T Ethernet switch to replace the Nortel hubs they have today. The minimum requirement for cabling on a 100Base-T switch is category 3 and both of these locations are already using this.
The benefit of this type of Ethernet is, of course, better network traffic management and less congestion. The 100Base-T are also easy to configure and easy to troubleshoot. A disadvantage to this type of network switching is the high cost of the hardware and the limited distance in cabling (100 meters). With the new Ethernet, they will remove the patch panels and use the Cisco 5950 switches the corporate office and China office is using. Although patch panels are easy to use and inexpensive, they do not provide the capabilities the switches will provide. Security
The current security efforts in each location are hard to determine. The corporate office in San Jose and the office in China both have a firewall between their internal network and the internet. They also utilize a satellite WAN for their internal network, linking all sites together. The Albany and Pontiac locations are not using an internet connection; the connection is via the company’s WAN. These two locations show no evident of firewalls installed. The advantages of using a firewall between the company’s internal network and the internet far outweigh the disadvantages.
Some outside packets are intentionally designed to harm a company’s information and resources and using a firewall will protect a company from this type of attack. The use of Firewalls exists to protect the company from unauthorized attempts to access the network. Another advantage of a firewall is to monitor and control internal users (employees) from viewing offensive material on the internet, spending large amounts of time accessing the internet, or streaming audio or video which would use up large amounts of bandwidth (Johnson et al. , 2004).
Some disadvantages to using a firewall are the installation expenses and the complexities in configuration, but these are minimal when compared to the risk a company would take in not using a firewall to protect their information. One security feature we cannot see but assume they are using is encryption in their communications between their various locations. Encryption is simply using software to transform information and make it unreadable to anyone except the intended recipient, who will have the corresponding decryption software and necessary key to read the data.
Another security feature we cannot see but assume they are using is user accounts and user groups. A user account is set up for each internal employee and will hold the password and permissions that employee has to the information on the network. A user group consists of several user accounts that have the same permissions and share information within their group. User accounts and groups ensure employees can access the information they need and prevent unauthorized access to information. Network administrators are responsible for managing user group and the network server will handle granting privileges when requests come through.
If the company is not using encryption and user accounts/user groups, it is recommended that encryption is adopted. Network Protocol The Riordan Manufacturing company network overview consists of a Wide Area Network (WAN) which includes multiple local area networks (LANs). The company has several Ethernet for the physical and data link layers. The way the LANS connect to the WAN is through a leased T1 connection to the outside network. Each location network system is different. The San Jose network system consists of two Ethernet protocols that are 100Base T (100 megabit twisted pair cable).
The Ethernets connect via a Gateway/Switch. This location has two 24 port Cisco 5950 switches. Corp and Marketing department’s shares one port and Finance and HR areas share the second switch. The backup system is a NAS Lomega. This location has four servers; one to support the MAC G5s; two WIN servers and a UNIX ERP/MRP server. A UPS backup system exists with no obvious connection to the network. The Albany, GA location has the least amount of employees and a smaller networking system. In this location the servers and computers are connected by switches and patch panels.
The Pontiac MI location is also set up with patch panels, but this area uses Nortel Baystack Hubs, which connect to the 3 servers. The China location is similar to the San Jose CA networking system only there is only one Ethernet protocol 100Base T. The system connects to a Gateway/Switch, which connects to the Satellite base station to the Corporate Headquarters. The rationale for the adoption of existing protocols is for the devices to connect to the Corporate Headquarters HR and Finance departments. One advantage of the WAN is that it offers telecommunication between different locations throughout the world.
The WAN system allows Riordan Manufacturing employees to communicate through fax, email through worldwide links. Speed of transmission is also an advantage of WANs. The disadvantage is that the system is vulnerable to hackers and the clients work is dependent on the network. It appears that resources could be located too far from the users. Possible recommendation for Riordan Manufacturing is to consolidate and optimize their infrastructure. After reviewing the different locations, several of the servers can qualify as one central data center.
It appears that the company has distributed data in the remote-office locations. Having a data center would reduce the cost of managing the data at each remote location. The data center would be a way to make the data more protected. Riordan Manufacturing is on the right track by using a Wide Area Network system for its infrastructure. The company would make better use of the equipment and technology in each site by optimizing the systems and accelerating central location, resulting in less hardware to maintain in each location. Conclusion
Riordan Manufacturing can improve inefficiencies of the telephone network by adopting a unified communication system. A unified communication system will allow Riordan Manufacturing to take advantage of available features to improve business communications. To improve the data network, consolidating several of the servers will allow for optimization of the infrastructure. All devices should connect to a central data center in the Corporate Headquarters HR and Finance departments, minimizing the hardware currently in use at each location. The recommendation is to replace all hardware with Pentium IV class systems with 2. Gigahertz processor or greater and to upgrade all server software from Windows NT to Windows 2003 Server. The RAM for the computers also needs upgrades. The networking switches and data lines can use upgrades to support gigabit Ethernet, fiber optic transmission protocols, and the 3-5 Mbps transmission speeds. A unified database management system for all facilities is a recommendation. The use of an Oracle database management system will enhance the inventory, manufacturing process and warehouse management capabilities. Each facility will manage an Oracle platform in a distributed database configuration.
An enterprise resource planning (ERP) software package such as IQMS will be implemented to establish a unified system platform. The IQMS system will improve the efficiency and productivity of Riordan’s operations. Installing 100Base-T Ethernet switches is essential and the use of encryption and firewalls can reduce the risk of unwanted intrusions and to improve security.