When the Wizard told Dorothy and friends to “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,” they couldn’t help but look because that’s where the magic happens. In the case of the training centers operated by readySC™ for the Volvo and Mercedes projects, pulling back the curtain reveals a complex information system explicitly designed for the high-tech needs of these advanced manufacturing projects.
As Brad Neese, readySC’s executive director, says, “readySC is hardwired into the training needs of companies. We work very intently to be able to create a learning environment that reflects a company’s manufacturing environment.” This may take several forms from equipment and training space to the literal wires and networking infrastructure required to provide the training. Whatever the case, readySC works to put the right team in place to ensure the company’s training needs are met successfully. For the Volvo and Mercedes projects, readySC formed an innovative partnership with the SC Technical College System’s Information Technology Services Division (ITS) to provide the critical networking infrastructure to train over 3,000 people for the two projects.
EDGE talks with the ITS team about the information technology processes that go on “behind the curtain” for these projects, including Khush Tata, vice president for information technology and CIO, John Hall, associate vice president for IT, Networking and Infrastructure and Ryan Williams, senior information resource consultant.
EDGE: How did your partnership with readySC develop?
John Hall: These engagements are typically done by the local technical college, but given the location of Volvo’s initial training, readySC asked ITS to support the endeavor instead. Once the permanent Volvo training center was completed, we were asked to put in that infrastructure as well.
Khush Tata: This is the first time we have extended our services to support an independent space, so we started with a completely blank canvas. We knew from the start that we were providing the framework on top of which everything else sits--all the work processes that drive these projects as well as the training itself.
EDGE: What were some of the challenges you faced setting up the infrastructure for Trident Technical College’s Workforce Training Center (WTC) and Volvo’s permanent training center?
John: The WTC building was chosen to be a temporary space until Volvo’s permanent training center was completed. We set up the first floor of the WTC building for Volvo, including security cameras, access control, the data network, WiFi, the wired network, telephony and all associated hardware. That setup was replicated for Mercedes on the second floor.
Ryan Williams: From a networking standpoint, the setup of Volvo’s permanent training center was straight forward. The biggest challenge came with the WTC building. With two projects operating independently, we needed to segregate each company into their own little networks within a main network — essentially, separate yet connected.
Tata: While readySC is focused on meeting the training needs of the customer, we’re in the background managing third-party vendors and making sure all the right components interoperate seamlessly when needed. If training needs change, we have to be ready. The project might suddenly need more access due to a ramp-up in training, or they may need to quickly access part of the infrastructure previously not available. Flexibility is crucial.
We are always focused on security and privacy. There are proprietary components of the training, along with a great deal of data and trainee information. We are sensitive to the security needs of such an operation, and that is always reflected in the type of networks and systems we create, the access granted and the overall management control provided.
EDGE: What’s the upkeep now, to keep each training facility going?
Ryan: Upkeep, as it relates to Volvo’s permanent training center, is pretty consistent these days, but industry needs are constantly changing. We are poised and ready to adapt. The WTC building is still a moving target. That building is very project-focused, and as such, changes are continually being made to meet project requirements. We work hand-in-hand with readySC to make sure it meets the training needs.
Khush: Manageability is vital to any project. We’re very sensitive about how to most reliably and efficiently manage these remote platforms. Current technologies allow us the flexibility to do this at different locations and keep them secure.
Ryan: They can call us now and say, “we need to make these changes by tomorrow,” and it can be done in 30 minutes or less. We’ve set it up so it’s very well managed remotely.
EDGE:Will you continue to partner with readySC to support future training efforts?
Khush: Yes. These projects have given us a better sense of how ITS can meet readySC’s future needs. Our solutions need to be client-focused and sustainable. We work to set up a general-purpose infrastructure that is based on industry best practices, so that we are as flexible and nimble as possible for future needs.