“Talk about tough times, right?”
That’s how Dan Stuart, Senior Vice President of IT Services at Southwire Company, refers to the months following a December 2019 ransomware event, and the COVID crisis that began in spring of 2020. Those events hit just as the company was preparing for an overhaul of their SAP environment. This comprehensive plan included three key elements. First, the company wanted to upgrade their SAP ECC environment to take advantage of the latest functionality available for this critical ERP system. Second, Southwire aimed to deploy SAP Business Warehouse on SAP HANA to accelerate vital reporting for all business users. Third, the company wanted to upgrade to the latest version of SAP Process Orchestration—an essential component that touches key manufacturing interfaces in all Southwire facilities.
Southwire had looked at multiple options for the upgrades, including remaining entirely on-premises, colocation, and full cloud migration. “Going to the cloud seemed a lot more compelling,” says Joe Schleupner, Southwire’s Senior Director of PMO & ITS planning and implementation. “We were going to the cloud eventually, so why take these intermediary steps? Let’s just get it done.”
After looking at several options, Southwire decided to migrate to Google Cloud. “We wanted to be on a platform for SAP that was flexible, scalable, and secure; that we could count on to get up and running quickly,” says Stuart. “We chose Google Cloud not only for those reasons, but also because we recognize that Google has other assets that we may be able to take advantage of down the line, such as technologies like artificial intelligence (AI).”
More stability, less worry
As one of the leading manufacturers of wire and cable used in the transmission and distribution of electricity, Southwire aids the delivery of power to millions of people worldwide. They have more than 30 manufacturing facilities across the United States running 24/7. Any downtime directly affects productivity and revenue. With help from Google Cloud and their implementation partner NIMBL, Southwire completed the SAP migration to Google Cloud over a planned maintenance weekend on July 4th.
The migration itself, while complex, went quickly and smoothly. “Just moving to the cloud was quite a feat because we were dealing with so much data, but in total the SAP system was down for only ~16 hours,” says Schleupner.
“As a project manager, I always felt that Google Cloud had my back” Schleupner says. The Process Orchestration (PO) migration was of particular concern, considering that it controlled all of Southwire’s manufacturing interfaces across the entire company. “Every critical piece of information that goes from SAP down to the manufacturing system goes through that system,” says Schleupner.
Even after migrating, Southwire discovered that making changes to the system was fast, easy, and resulted in no downtime. Normally, certain types of changes would have involved taking down SAP for at least an hour.
The Southwire team also appreciates the fact that the modern cloud architecture means spending less time on routine infrastructure maintenance. “It’s one less thing for me to worry about,” Stuart says, “I can focus on the business side of the house and move the technology and responsibilities to what we do within the Google Cloud Platform.”
What comes next?
While the cloud migration will increase stability, uptime, performance, and security, there is much more to come. Southwire is currently working on a disaster recovery implementation for their SAP environment on Google Cloud. Stuart and Schleupner are excited about where Google Cloud can further take Southwire. They are considering an SAP Hybris e-commerce implementation as well as connected factory and/or factory automation initiatives that can take advantage of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
To Stuart and Schleupner,the migration of Southwire’s SAP environment to Google Cloud, as important as it was, really represents the first step in the company’s tech evolution. Now that much of the heavy lifting is complete, Southwire’s digital transformation can begin in earnest. “There’s no shortage of areas where I think Google Cloud will come into play,” Stuart says, “and we intend to look at these things with an open mind to understand how we can leverage current investments to take our organization where we want to go.”
Read More for the details.