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Customer Story | Enterprise Networks

How ThousandEyes Helps a Global Manufacturer Ensure Quality for IoT

One of the ways the manufacturer has differentiated its product offerings is through an Internet of Things (IoT) vision that leverages long distance networking to access and control machinery. This is the case with its leading range of drill rigs; these are huge mining rigs that can weigh up to 200 tons and drill to a depth of over 295 feet. By using the network to remotely operate these drill rigs, the manufacturer has been able to consolidate specialist resources and enhance safety. However, this brings its own challenge around network quality and reliability. It was this challenge that the IT team set out to solve. With ThousandEyes, the global manufacturer is helping to ensure network quality through end-to-end visibility of the communications path between their driver and the next 205 ton machine they produce and deploy to the field thousands of miles away.

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One of the ways the manufacturer has differentiated its product offerings is through an Internet of Things (IoT) vision that leverages long distance networking to access and control machinery. This is the case with its leading range of drill rigs; these are huge mining rigs that can weigh up to 200 tons and drill to a depth of over 295 feet. By using the network to remotely operate these drill rigs, the manufacturer has been able to consolidate specialist resources and enhance safety. However, this brings its own challenge around network quality and reliability. It was this challenge that the IT team set out to solve. With ThousandEyes, the global manufacturer is helping to ensure network quality through end-to-end visibility of the communications path between their driver and the next 205 ton machine they produce and deploy to the field thousands of miles away.

One of the ways the manufacturer has differentiated its product offerings is through an Internet of Things (IoT) vision that leverages long distance networking to access and control machinery. This is the case with its leading range of drill rigs; these are huge mining rigs that can weigh up to 200 tons and drill to a depth of over 295 feet. By using the network to remotely operate these drill rigs, the manufacturer has been able to consolidate specialist resources and enhance safety. However, this brings its own challenge around network quality and reliability. It was this challenge that the IT team set out to solve. With ThousandEyes, the global manufacturer is helping to ensure network quality through end-to-end visibility of the communications path between their driver and the next 205 ton machine they produce and deploy to the field thousands of miles away.

New Beginnings

As a world-leading industrial equipment manufacturer specializing in mining, compressor, industrial tooling and assembly solutions, this global company has grown to employ over 45,000 people. It owns operations in over 90 countries that serve customers in more than 180 countries.

The world of industrial equipment and heavy manufacturing continues to evolve rapidly—in recent years driven by globalization, fluctuating demand for commodities, and changing trade flows. In the face of greater uncertainties, industrial manufacturers are investing in digitization and technical innovation to achieve and pass on productivity gains to their customers, and this is certainly the case when it comes to this manufacturer.

Networking as Key Product Differentiator

One of the ways the manufacturer has differentiated its product offerings is through an Internet of Things (IoT) vision that leverages long distance networking to access and control machinery. This is the case with its leading range of drill rigs; these are huge mining rigs that can weigh up to 200 tons and drill to a depth of over 295 feet. As you can imagine, safety is a key concern when operating these huge pieces of equipment which means that specialist resource is required. By using the network to remotely operate these drill rigs the manufacturer has been able to consolidate specialist resources and enhance safety. However, this brings its own challenge around network quality and reliability. It was this challenge that the IT team set out to solve.

The team wanted to control a drill rig in America from 5,000 miles away from one of their European offices. What’s more, they had less than 3 months to make it happen.

There were several challenges the team wanted to address—uncertainties around the network set-up and support: what were the actual infrastructure capabilities and what was the impact of the distance? Secondly, the manufacturer needed to coordinate a lot of people across many regions and time zones. Finally, the IT team encountered a certain skepticism among some of the wider group, which meant they needed to provide some reassurance.

Charting out a reliable communications path for such mission-critical machinery is a challenge, especially when the network path involves different network providers in different regions and timezones.

Mining equipment

The leadership team decided extra visibility was needed, which was when they engaged ThousandEyes. The manufacturer’s network team deployed ThousandEyes to prepare for remote equipment deployments and ensure high quality networking across multiple networks including the Internet.

ThousandEyes Enterprise Agents were deployed to measure the underlying network performance up front, during and after the tests. The IT team could now see the network hop-by-hop, look at DNS response, RTP streams and throughput. As a result, they were able to demonstrate that even when you have a driver sitting in Europe controlling a drill rig in the central USA, latency and network issues weren’t a problem. Using ThousandEyes, the team ran two to three weeks of testing in advance to make sure they saw the performance they needed across the complete network path and each link in the chain. The team needed to see network behavior 5,000 miles away and outside of hours to account for the time difference to make sure it didn’t have any issues.

This new, remote control functionality for the drill range is now fully rolled out and is being used as an upsell feature by the company’s sales teams, albeit often across distances far less than the 5,000 miles achieved in this instance. In addition, the drill rigs are able to provide a wealth of IoT data back to the company around drill performance and service information to be used for things like preemptive maintenance.

Global manufacturer operations world map

Expanding the Use Case

The same principles have also been applied for the company’s range of underground diesel loaders. These underground workhorses can shift up to 20 tons in a single load and, in the case of the company’s largest model, weigh over 55 tons. Just as with the drill rigs, the ability to centralize specialist drivers remote from the equipment means resources no longer have to be on site and can be accessed only when needed, plus drivers no longer need to be present in potentially hazardous environments. The team found the experience similar to driving a remote control car, only thousands of miles away.

As with the drill rigs, network quality and reliability are crucial, especially as latency-sensitive applications such as voice and video are key to having visibility of what’s happening at the far end. Using ThousandEyes, the manufacturer was able to monitor key performance metrics around voice and video and easily isolate and resolve issues regardless of whether the fault lies on a private or public network, or with partner ISPs all over the world.

The result was that the team was more easily able to resolve the issues they saw on the network path because they could visualize exactly where the issue was. In one case the customer found some Quality- of-Service (QoS) parameters that weren’t configured correctly and so caused some problems when the network traffic switched between providers. When issues occurred with voice and video traffic, the customer was quickly able to isolate the affected sites and exclude the network as the root cause. In both cases ThousandEyes helped the customer to efficiently find where the issue was and work with their internal teams and third-party suppliers to resolve them quickly.

Distant mining equipment

Visibility Leads to Confidence

As the manufacturer moves to a world where more and more of their products are connected, the quality of the network becomes even more crucial.

ThousandEyes contributed by giving the customer knowledge where there were previously just unknowns. That knowledge built confidence within the crew that external factors can be managed. The manufacturer showed that steering big haul drill rigs over long distances is possible, providing the network is stable and somewhat predictable.

The customer found the ThousandEyes agent was easy to set up and was installed on ruggedized, bare metal hardware costing only $400. This was important because the customer needs to be able to ship these units out to the middle of nowhere, in harsh mining environments, so being able to deploy monitoring agents on this form factor was important.

With ThousandEyes, the global manufacturer is helping to ensure network quality through end-to- end visibility of the communications path between their driver and the next 205 ton machine they produce and deploy to the field. The customer team is now seeing strong demand for this capability from its global customer business units, having proved that in terms of operating a drill or loader, there is effectively no difference between a driver sitting in the cab or sitting in the next continent.

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