Various networking options to
keep the manufacturing supply chain running smoothly.
By: John Shepler
Today's manufacturing supply chain is lean and
fast. It has to be in order for an enterprise to be competitive
in our 24/7 global economy. The electronic tentacles that link
the various elements in the chain must be equally agile and completely
reliable because this chain truly is only as strong as its weakest
Electronic Data Interchange or EDI forms
the basis of the information links between purchasing, vendors,
logistics suppliers, automated warehousing, flexible manufacturing,
management, accounting, distribution, wholesaling, retailing
and, often, the ultimate customers. Usually the emphasis is on
compatiblesoftware modules from large scale applications. But,
the best software solution in the world will grind to a halt
without the right connectivity to get those EDI packets where
they are going in a timely manner.
The possible solutions are dedicated networks,
private networks, virtual private networks, public networks,
or some combination of these.
By public networks, I'm referring to the
Internet. It's cheap and universal, but not necessarily up to
the task of highly reliable telephone services or secure data
transfers. The Internet is best used for information research
and as an easy interface to retail customers in their homes.
Between other elements of the supply chain,
a virtual private network that includes some links through the
Internet makes more sense. It still might not be up to the voice
quality standards you want, but your data will be protected from
prying eyes by encryption.
Private networks, such as Frame Relay networks,
ATM networks, and private IP networks have the advantage of being
more reliable than public networks and can be set up to manage
quality of service so that you can converge VoIP phone calls
and EDIinformation on the same network.
The ultimate in reliability, security and
ability to control quality of service is the dedicated line.
These are point to point circuits that you have exclusive use
of. For critical links in your chain, nothing less than a completely
dedicated line may be enough. Perhaps even an encrypted private
line for the highest possible security.
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