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Global manufacturer moves to Office 365 to capture promise of digital manufacturing

Today’s post was written by Gary Cantrell, CIO of Jabil.

Gary CantrellThese are exciting times in the manufacturing industry. Disruptive innovation across many sectors—digital manufacturing, intelligent supply chains, self-optimizing factory machines, new build-to-demand manufacturing paradigms—are all pushing the rate of change exponentially. Against this backdrop, product lifecycles are shrinking while consumer expectations for customized products are growing.

At Jabil, we see these trends as business opportunities. To compete in today’s digital economy, we’re diversifying into new markets, expanding our global supply chain management services and building intelligent factory solutions. And to win these opportunities, Jabil needs an enterprise-grade business productivity platform that tens of thousands of employees can use to collaborate anytime, from anywhere, and on any device across 110 plants in nearly 30 countries. To position us for the future, we decided to move to Office 365—to boost employee productivity, enable business agility and enrich our security profile.

Our communication environment is inherently complex, and when I joined Jabil three years ago, IT was investing a significant amount of time and money to ensure our platform and third-party apps provided our workforce with efficient, interoperable tools. Choosing Office 365 was a way to simplify and consolidate our IT environment to reap the benefits of a fully integrated productivity platform. We have many thousands of employees in Asia who have never really been able to work offline, or collaborate efficiently with global teams across time zones. But with Office 365, we gain a user interface that inherently advocates working together: from now on, file compatibility issues are a thing of the past and we’ll be seeing seamless, productive collaboration around the world.

Add the management capabilities and the comprehensive cloud security services that are embedded in the Office 365 platform, and we feel as if we have a suite of enterprise tools that are a great fit for a global corporation. Jabil works with our customers’ intellectual property and their new products well before they hit the market, so security and control over data, both for our employees and our customers, are paramount. We think that adding Office 365 to our security profile will reassure customers who are concerned about protecting their valuable information.

And we are really excited about the role that Office 365 can play in helping Jabil capitalize on the promise of digital manufacturing. We already use the Microsoft Azure Machine Learning service for our production systems. We built our manufacturing systems on the Microsoft platform with self-optimizing machines and hundreds of devices with sensors that produce reams of real-time data. As we move into the Internet of Things, our engineers are keen to use Office 365 analytical tools like Power BI to do predictive analysis right on the factory floor, turning that machine data into actionable insights and sharing them quickly and securely through SharePoint Online collaboration sites. With integrated tools like these, our employees will make faster business decisions and capture new business on the forefront of manufacturing trends.

And when we look at the workplace of the future, we want to enable the naturally collaborative, multi-tasking capabilities of millennial employees. Office 365 fits Jabil’s long-term vision around productivity for all our employees, no matter what device they are using. Microsoft has done a really good job of designing a platform neutral product.

The move to Office 365 wasn’t a decision we took lightly. With our global footprint and more than 1 petabyte of data encased in Google services, transitioning from one cloud platform to another felt like a daunting project. But we were reassured by Microsoft’s collaborative approach to working with us. The Microsoft Services and FastTrack program teams provided proactive planning throughout this transition with consistent executive management support.

In the end, it was when we evaluated the product’s future capabilities—such as Office Delve, Sway and Skype Meeting Broadcast—that we saw the wisdom of making this move. Microsoft’s openness with its roadmap is a significant benefit: the more we know about how the Office 365 platform is evolving, the better we can plan for new capabilities to keep our employees and our factories running at optimal output—all day, every day. From where I stand, Office 365 will play a key role in Jabil’s vision to capture the promise of the new digital manufacturing era.

—Gary Cantrell

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