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How to better connect storage to the business
Storage managers can learn how to streamline processes by emulating manufacturing process efficiencies.
Not too long ago, I toured BMW's impressive manufacturing facility in Spartanburg, SC. For each built-to-order car, subassemblies travel separate lines where assorted components are installed. Country-specific features and various customer-requested options intermingle on these lines and, despite all the diversity, the subassemblies create the finished vehicle in a nearly flawless manner.
Manufacturers have made substantial investments to perfect their assembly, quality control and assurance processes. They've also incorporated efficiency methodologies such as just-in-time delivery. The BMW factory stocks remarkably little inventory, and suppliers are required to supply components within days or even hours.
At the core of the modern manufacturing process is the concept of the business supply chain. Each link adds value, with an interdependency among the functions that lets the output of each workflow feed into others, forming larger supply chains.
IT plays a role in virtually every business workflow. The primary point of connection between IT and the various workflow functions is the application. In many cases, applications have become the hub of a given process.
What is storage's relationship to the supply chain? As shown in the diagram "Storage and the business services supply chain" (at right), storage sits deep within the IT infrastructure. Its customers are internal groups and others that are externally focused on customers. While there's talk of aligning storage with business, storage typically doesn't interact directly with the actual business workflow but with the business apps critical to that workflow.
This was first published in November 2006