In 2016, two automotive suppliers experienced a major system outage which froze deliveries to a high-end customer – Volkswagen. Unfortunately, this impacted Volkswagen’s production lines considerably, resulting in an estimated loss of over $100m to the automaker. The incident demonstrates how vulnerable complex supply chains can be, and a how disruption can significantly impact a company’s bottom line and reputation.
While there is a myriad of ways in which automotive supply chains can be disrupted, the increasing dependency on applications used to manage the process puts information technology in the spotlight. Suppliers, as well as their customers, simply cannot afford to meet a similar fate as Volkswagen’s. As this responsibility often falls on the suppliers themselves, it is vital to take a look at current business continuity and disaster recovery strategies, and determine if the supply chain will be resilient in the face of an outage.
The System Will Go Down
The auto industry is particularly vulnerable to system outages. The supply chain for the delivery of tens of thousands of parts to the production line in real time is not only immensely complex, but is underpinned by technology.
I.T. helps suppliers, manufacturers and logistic teams to work in sync and keep production lines moving. Digital transformation is revolutionizing the automotive industry, and prompting the beginning of supply-chain digitalization. This will allow more transparency and acceleration of design, manufacturing and delivery.
However, because dependency on I.T. is likely to grow, and as the impact on delivering products becomes a starker reality, organizations must prepare for unplanned downtime if an I.T. system failure does occur. The repercussions that come with outages can be devastating throughout the supply chain, with high levels of lost revenue and reputational damage often occurring hand in hand.
Impacts to the Supply Chain
The quality and price of parts is fundamental to manufacturers, but what should be equally important is the supplier’s ability to deliver on time and without exceptions. Systems going down due to human error, unplanned maintenance, or a ransomware attack should be non-existent in today’s market. However, simply being protected is not enough – suppliers need to be completely resilient against I.T. system outages to protect their supply chains and deliver products on time.
There are ways that suppliers can become I.T. resilient and withstand unplanned downtime. It starts with a disaster recovery plan, which includes documentation of people, processes and technology, alongside a regular schedule of testing to ensure that systems can withstand an unplanned outage and be back online in a short amount of time to maintain business continuity.
Unfortunately, most disaster recovery strategies used today are outdated, especially the types of technology on which they rely. From legacy backup products to day-old copies of data and a lack of new resources such as the cloud, suppliers can subject their applications to a lot of risk. Adding to this is the difficulty of disaster recovery testing with many legacy technologies, leaving organizations blind to gaps in the plan.
I.T. Resilience Is the Solution
A fully resilient strategy will increase protection over traditional disaster recovery strategies, while making the infrastructure flexible enough for I.T. to function throughout both planned and unplanned outages. In addition to headline-grabbing unplanned outages such as cyber attacks, planned outages are an integral part of digital transformation. Moving to the cloud, conducting maintenance and upgrades, and even mergers and acquisitions all require planned outages. With this in mind, one way to achieve I.T. resilience is to relay on technology that provides continuous data protection.
In the automotive supply industry, things can change on a minute-to-minute basis. Protection that only provides backup data from hours, days or weeks ago doesn’t offer much comfort in the immediate moments after a period of downtime. Continuous data protection, often referred to as real-time backup, offers a different approach. Traditional backups provide snapshots at regular intervals, while continuous data protection automatically saves every single change to any data instantly. This means that the backup is no longer stored in intervals, but continuously in a journal.
In the wake of the Volkswagen fiasco, more automotive industry customers are going to start demanding that suppliers provide detailed insight into how they recover from I.T. system outages. To remain competitive, all companies along the supply chain need to understand the shortcomings of current disaster recovery strategies that protect only from hardware failures, and not from logical errors.
In order to recover from system outages, planned or unplanned, suppliers need to upgrade their disaster recovery solutions to focus on the holy grail of I.T. resilience.
Gijsbert Jassen van Doorn is technology evangelist with Zerto.