Pharmaceutical packaging is highly regulated. Product batches require lot numbers and expiration dates, and partly package has a unique serial number for authentication. Leaflets must provide comprehensive dosing, drug interaction, and adverse reaction information in multiple languages, which is constantly being updated to reflect new clinical studies and patient reports. Our customers also provide graphics files and producton relevant data, which require constant communication between their teams, our head office, and our printing plants.
Our Network Lacked Visibility and Redundancy
I’ve been with Faller Packaging for 17 years, and as our Head of IT Systems, I ensure all our locations can communicate with our primary data center, each other, and our customers. In the past, our IT infrastructure was organized as a hub. Each of our six production sites was connected to the primary data center through a MPLS line. Our ISP had exclusive control of our leased lines. With no visibility into our infrastructure, we couldn’t predict or prevent network failures, and when something went wrong, our hands were tied. We had to wait for our ISP to resolve the issue.
Everything came to a head when we lost the connection at one of our sites for two days. There was no way to reroute production to another plant. Although we could ensure production and customer deliveries using workarounds, this incident highlighted our lack of control over our infrastructure and our ISP’s lack of accountability, failure to communicate, and inability to restore service promptly.
We issued an RFP to remediate these issues. Our requirements were explicit: we wanted SD-WAN connectivity, redundancy, and increased visibility into our network. We sought a partner who could plan, deploy, and manage our infrastructure while giving us enough oversight to monitor our network to ensure it met our performance standards.
Freeing Ourselves from an ISP
After looking at the various submissions, we selected Riedel Networks because they offered the best solution: industry-standard Cisco SD-WAN technology with LTE backup and Riedel’s in-house network monitoring tools that fully comply with Cisco specifications. Riedel’s team also inspired trust: their sales presentation was comprehensive, and their engineers and technicians were extremely knowledgeable. They showed us how Cisco hardware and Riedel monitoring software work together to meet our needs and keep our plants online.
Riedel understands how manufacturing works and how to support our business processes. Unlike other potential vendors, Riedel didn’t leave us at the mercy of our ISP. Although Cisco SD-WAN runs on third-party MPLS, internet and LTE infrastructure, Riedel’s monitoring tools provide full visibility into these leased connections so we can see trouble coming and ask for assistance. Combined with Cisco’s smart routers at our six sites and primary data center, we have a network that is easy to manage and seamlessly connects our operations with minimal disruptions.
A Staggered Multi-Site Deployment
Multi-site deployments can be challenging and require a lot of planning. When our previous vendor migrated our network to MPLS five years ago, the project stalled, and we didn’t go live on schedule. This time, we had a hard deadline of June 30th, 2022, when our existing MPLS contract would expire. Riedel understood the gravity of that timeline and proceeded to demonstrate their aptitude for project management. We signed an agreement in October 2021, ordered equipment, and completed the project between late May and mid-June 2022.
Our IT team comprises six engineers and an apprentice, and we didn’t have the skills or time to set up our new infrastructure. Riedel took care of everything—they wired the routers at our seven touch points, connected them to the leased MPLS and internet lines, and gave us the IP addresses and other information we needed to route traffic to and from each remote site and our data center.
Riedel’s engineers worked one site at a time. Once the new MPLS and Internet lines were connected, Riedel installed a router and network appliances at each site’s server room in parallel with our existing equipment. This staggered deployment happened during business hours, and there was no loss of connectivity. We could then migrate that site to our new infrastructure and fall back to our previous setup if we encountered any issues. In doing so, we avoided the “big bang” of switching everything over at once and troubleshooting our entire network in case of a problem.
Riedel migrated our entire European operations to our new SD-WAN in less than seven months. Their team maintained constant contact throughout the process, so we had a clear idea of how the project was progressing. I have to admit that I was skeptical at first. Having dealt with constant setbacks during our previous migration, I expected something to go wrong. But once Riedel met our first milestone, we felt confident they would continue to deliver on schedule—and they did.