3 Reasons Manufacturers Across Asia Pacific & Japan Are Turning to Modern Apps

May 27, 2021 Kip Cole

Manufacturing is more important than ever as governments, businesses, and individuals rely on the industry to drive innovation and economic prosperity through employment and exports, producing both essential and non-essential products that enhance our daily lives. 

In the last two decades, there has been a spotlight on manufacturing players across APJ, as countries such as China, South Korea, and Japan have become global powerhouses for the production of consumer electronics, automobiles, and household appliances. It’s no wonder McKinsey has pegged the region to be the most instrumental in shaping the next phase of globalization.

However, such success also means those players are under constant pressure to produce high-quality goods that can be delivered quickly and in a way that’s resource efficient. To achieve this, they need to have the right people, processes, and technology in place to find and fix issues in their production lines and adapt to changes in the macroenvironment, including global crisis or economic fluctuations. 

The challenge for many manufacturers in the region is that they’re facing an uphill battle brought on by legacy technology infrastructure and outdated applications. These systems are limiting their ability to be flexible and slowing down their time to market, and as such are forcing them to take a step back and look at how they can modernize their environments to better drive business growth.

For those manufacturers striving to gain a competitive advantage and thrive on the global stage, embracing app modernization can help them level up by enabling them to:

  1. Take an agile approach to operations 

  2. Increase innovation initiatives

  3. Enhance security measures

Take an agile approach to operations 

Agility is one of if not the most important factor that manufacturers can use to achieve more efficient production processes and a quicker time-to-market. Organizations that get agility right by adopting lean methodologies will be able to get products on shelves and in the hands of consumers faster. They will also have the capabilities to scale quickly during periods of increased demand and pivot when required. Prime examples include General Motors utilizing resources to produce face masks during the height of COVID-19, and Australian breweries swapping out beer production for hand sanitizer.

So how can manufacturers practically adopt an agile approach and modernize their applications? As agility is about iterating to continuously improve software quality, it’s important for developers to closely observe how applications are performing and use that feedback to make meaningful changes that will improve the user experience. Doing this consistently will ultimately shorten the software development cycle and help improve both quality and cost. 

Boeing—which is renowned for its innovation over the last century—knew that it needed to transform its approach to software development if it wanted to continue to be the world’s leading aerospace manufacturer. By working with VMware Tanzu, Boeing established a digital factory known as the Digital Transformation Environment (DTE). The DTE, underpinned by cloud native capabilities, enabled the organization to build software faster and smarter through the use of agile processes. This in turn helped its customers get more value from aircrafts and resulted in a 6x increase in asset utilization thanks to shorter software development times and better use of data.

Manufacturers don’t need to “boil the ocean” by trying to modernize every part of their legacy infrastructure at once. Starting small and focusing on migrating applications that have low technical risk and high business value can be a sensible first step. These could include manufacturing information systems such as process control, human resource management, and finance systems, which could then be followed by more critical and complex applications such as manufacturing execution systems. Partnering with experts such as VMware Tanzu will allow IT teams to transition these monolithic systems into microservices, essentially breaking down big applications to improve software speed, independence, and innovation.

Increase innovation initiatives

Manufacturers that embrace app modernization and use agility to achieve increased operational efficiency have a significant opportunity to drive greater innovation across the supply chain and position themselves well ahead of their competitors.

By freeing up resources that would have been previously spent maintaining outdated systems, they can focus on implementing the people, processes, and technology needed to take innovation to the next level. This can involve building smarter factories that utilize IoT, automation, and robotics to increase speed and efficiency, improve customer experience, and drive environmental sustainability.

Utilizing the expertise provided through VMware Tanzu’s solutions and VMware Tanzu Labs’ software development expertise, manufacturers can integrate smart sensors on physical components of their products to gather data in real time so as to quickly draw insights from previously untapped resources. For example, Ford, with the help of VMware Tanzu, developed FordPass—a mobile application that allows drivers to lock or unlock their connected car remotely or gain access to diagnostic data. By using continuous integration/continuous delivery processes, Ford is also able to quickly record user feedback, experiment with new IoT ideas, and get them to market quickly. 

Enhance security measures

Given the high value placed on manufacturers’ intellectual property (IP) and advanced machinery, it’s no surprise that the industry is among the top three targeted by ransomware. We’ve already seen a ransomware threat against a large Taiwanese consumer electronics manufacturer this year, showing just how attractive the sector is to cybercriminals who seek to steal information and IP or sabotage production lines.

Manufacturers that are still operating legacy infrastructure can be exposed to cyber threats as a result of outdated systems, unsecured documents, and unpatched vulnerabilities. With that in mind, it’s crucial that all industry players—no matter how big or small—have robust cybersecurity systems in place to be able to protect both their digital and physical assets and ensure there are no disruptions to their operations.

A focus on application modernization will help manufacturers improve their security posture and thwart against the wide range of security threats they face, including ransomware, malware, and attacks on IoT devices. They can do so by taking a DevSecOps approach that simplifies and automates container operations across clouds, integrates security throughout the container lifecycle, and enables teams to deliver secure, high-quality software to customers more quickly. Thales, a manufacturer that works with security-reliant sectors including defense, transportation, and energy, embraced DevSecOps using Tanzu Application Service, which allowed the company to automate its core security functions to support its digital factories and accelerate product development.

Backed by the expertise gleaned through working with organizations across automotive, aviation, electronics, building materials, and beyond, VMware Tanzu is well placed to help manufacturers embark on and accelerate their app modernization journeys to achieve operational excellence and ongoing innovation.

Start your journey to modernizing legacy technology infrastructure and outdated applications today at tanzu.vmware.com/10apps.

Image courtesy of Clayton Cardinalli via Unsplash.

About the Author

Kip Cole is VP, Asia Pacific & Japan, VMware Tanzu.

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