Rockwell Gets Systems Lean but Mean

Case Study: Digital-DNS helps an automation power company boost services at half the cost.

When it comes to lean it operations, the it operations group at Rockwell Automations Power Systems division just may give new meaning to the term.

Rockwell Automation Inc. markets industrial automation power, control and information systems designed to help customers boost their manufacturing productivity.

While most businesses of Rockwell Automations type fund IT operations at approximately 3 percent or 4 percent of total sales, Rockwells Power Systems IT shop is funded at between 1.5 percent and 1.6 percent of sales.

Thats a tough target to hit, and, in fact, Rockwells IT division wasnt hitting it, with expenditures coming in at 1.9 percent of its sales.

But with a strong corporate culture of lean and efficient operations, Clyde Fowler, vice president of IT, in Greenville, S.C., "wanted to see how good we could get," he said.

"I view what were doing as part of the cost of doing business. I dont want my cost to the business to be 3 or 4 percent," Fowler said. "That might mean our products are not cost-competitive. This is one method in which we continue to maintain a lean, low-cost environment."

To get to that 1.5 percent cost target, the IT shop in the Power Systems division looked to trim costs in its NOC (network operations center) and in the maintenance it paid on its Hewlett-Packard Co. OpenView Network Node Manager and OpenView Operations software.

In addition to cost reduction, the IT shop wanted to improve its monitoring capability.

This set the stage for the decision to get rid of OpenView maintenance as a way to cut costs.

With an IT staff of 15 supporting 2,800 users and a global frame relay network, operations personnel had to wear multiple hats.

The divisions earlier OpenView administrator also supported PCs and was a Microsoft Systems Management Server administrator.

But as staff shifted around and with the OpenView software sitting idle for months at a time, "it didnt make sense to run OpenView if we didnt have someone full-time dedicated to it," said PJ Goodwin, infrastructure manager.

"There was no way I was going to get a full-time [OpenView] administrator," Goodwin added.

In addition to cutting costs, the IT group wanted to continue to improve monitoring of approximately 250 critical network devices, applications and production servers.

However, its OpenView software was never fully implemented and didnt do much more than act as "an expensive ping-monitoring tool," said Goodwin.

"We didnt have anyone qualified enough or couldnt assign a resource to install it [fully]. It never progressed to the full vision of what it was supposed to be," Goodwin said.

So Rockwell set out to find a service provider that could deliver the monitoring capability more cost-efficiently and at the same time act as an adjunct to its own IT staff.

Next Page: A streamlined model.