7 Best Practices While Delivering Remote Consulting Services

7 Best Practices While Delivering Remote Consulting Services

In my prior post, COVID-19 Shows Remote Support Providing Unexpected Benefits, I shared insights that iBase-t has gained while pivoting to a new remote consulting and professional services model. Given all we have learned, it is highly likely the future of how these services are delivered will retain many of the advantages our customers are now experiencing. 

Since COVID-19 has impacted all our customers across their entire value chain, most have already adapted systems to support their internal teams, as well as how they now work with suppliers, including iBase-t, while coordinating remote consulting.  

Here are a few insights we have learned so far that can help with your transition to providing and receiving remote consultation services:

  1. The first step you need to do is to make sure everyone’s firewall settings permit collaboration with both external partners and internal teams. Security must be maintained, but the ability to have Zoom, GoToMeeting, or Teams interactions is essential to project progress.  In many cases, video and screen sharing is critical to knowledge exchange so network capacity must be adequate.  
  2. For customers that have already moved their systems to the Cloud, many of these issues have already been addressed.  For those considering a move to the Cloud, COVID-19 might be the ideal catalyst, along with the benefits that remote support provides, to make the jump sooner rather than later.
  3. Ask more detailed questions upfront. This included topics such as what is the default time zone that meetings will be booked? When does the “workday” start? How often will you schedule breaks? And what is the default communications platform (as discussed above)?
  4. Non-verbal communications are often far more effective, which is only possible when video features are enabled; it is very difficult to “read” someone’s face if you cannot see it! Make a big effort to secure approvals for video to be enabled and set the expected default to enable video whenever possible. 
  5. Planning for remote sessions needs to be more detailed. We often provide “homework” assignments as part of ending each call. This sets an expectation of what will be discussed at the next meeting; those doing the pre-work are far more apt to understand new materials, helping to keep deployment timeframes intact. 
  6. Additional demos and playbacks during consulting sessions are time well spent. This can ensure the material is being better and more fully understood, both by customers and partners. We try to be very transparent during our calls and ask a lot of questions to make sure the audience is following, or if anyone has any questions. 
  7. Try to have frequent verbal check-ins during every call. Even with Video conferencing, it is difficult to “read” where a person is at or be 100% sure the content you are presenting was understood.

As iBase-t applies what it has learned during our shift to primarily offering remote support and training programs, we are now expanding our ability to do remote User Acceptance Testing (UAT). 

We continue to look for new ways to drive benefits for both our end-users and partners.  While COVID-19 has certainly presented significant challenges, the lessons we are learning together will enable us to deliver safer and more cost-effective support going forward.

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iBase-t Shifts to Virtual for Excelerate Conference with Launch of Excelerate Innovation 2020 Series

excelerate innovation 2020

Online events will feature the launch of iSeries, the company’s next-generation solutions for advanced manufacturing operation; will showcase presentations focused on customers’ digital strategies to improve operational performance

FOOTHILL RANCH, Calif. – August 26, 2020 iBase-t, a leading provider of manufacturing, quality, and MRO solutions, today announced the migration of Excelerate, its marquee business conference, to an online, virtual format. Renamed Excelerate Innovation 2020, this global business conference will be the first in a series of virtual events highlighting the investment in innovation the company is delivering its customers. The marquee event is scheduled for October 6 and 7, 2020. Taking center stage will be the unveiling of iBase-t’s iSeries, the latest enterprise manufacturing solution from iBase-t. 

Given the continued uncertainty surrounding business travel, social distancing, and maintaining the safety of iBase-t’s customers, partners, and employees, the decision was made to migrate to a virtual conference. Previously registered Excelerate attendees will be refunded the full amount of their ticket price.  

Much innovation is being delivered via iBase-t’s product development, technology integration, and user testing and acceptance of the company’s new iSeries solution portfolio based on its core platform, Solumina. The timely nature of this information necessitated hosting an online conference for customers and partners looking to quickly leverage the most advanced manufacturing operations capabilities available.  

Conference attendees will hear from industry leaders and company executives, including lessons learned over the past six months while operating in a global pandemic. A comprehensive discussion of the new iSeries will be followed by educational tracks presented by industry-leading manufacturing professionals. A key focus will be the greater operational agility and resiliency that is now possible to accelerate iBase-t customer’s digital transformation journey.

“The global pandemic has underscored the need for business leaders to simplify complex manufacturing with digital solutions,” said Naveen Poonian, President of iBase-t. “With a strong lineup of speakers and workshops, this year’s attendees can learn from informative presentations coupled with real-world case studies. We’re excited to share with attendees practical, applicable strategies to maximize the value of their iBase-t investment.”

Learn more about this conference here: excelerate.ibaset.com.


About iBase-t
iBase-t is a leading provider of manufacturing, quality and MRO solutions that enable digital continuity across the enterprise. With 30+ years of experience in highly engineered, regulated industries, iBase-t simplifies the complex by empowering customers to gain real-time visibility, take control, and drive velocity across their operations and extended value chain. iBase-t works closely with industry leaders, including Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Rolls Royce, Pratt & Whitney, and Patria Belgium Engine Center. Learn more at iBase-t.com.

COVID-19 Shows Remote Support Providing Unexpected Benefits

COVID-19 Shows Remote Support Providing Unexpected Benefits

As with most businesses, iBase-t has had to adapt in the face of COVID-19. Travel restrictions, social distancing limits, and work-from-home mandates are forcing new ways of delivering both implementation and ongoing support.  As iBase-t continues to place customer success at the top of our priorities, we discovered that some of these new accommodations are providing our customers with unexpected benefits.  As we all adapt to the ever-changing “new normal,” we are committed to carrying forward these new remote support best practices that have been adopted over the past six months.

Remote Consulting Support, Once an Option, Now the Norm

iBase-t has offered remote consulting for quite some time. But typically, customers opt to have on-site engineering support both for initial implementation and ongoing upgrade and enhancement projects.  

Before COVID-19, about two-thirds of iBase-t projects were delivered on-site.  During the initial lockdown phases of the coronavirus, travel was all but shut down. Even now, with the summer resurgence, travel remains low with only 5-10% of the projects utilizing on-site consulting.  Adding yet another challenge, many states and countries have instituted 14-day quarantine windows, adding further complexity for travelers.  

For today and the foreseeable future, iBase-t expects remote consulting and support to remain the best option for most of our customers.

New Benefits Revealed from Remote Consulting

While having iBase-t consultants and training staff on-site offered our clients the opportunity for hands-on training, the forced shift to remote consulting has unlocked many new benefits that have outweighed the perceived value of having an engineer on site.  

The first, and most easily measurable benefit, is the savings in travel expenses.  iBase-t customer projects have seen an 80-90% reduction in pass-through travel costs.  But in many respects, this is just the tip of the iceberg.  

Since support staff are not on airplanes or spending time commuting, the availability of professional services engineers and consultants is significantly higher.  For a consultant who traveled 60% to 80% of a month, a week or more of productive time was locked up while they were “in the air.”  Now they are available nearly every working day. 

Another benefit of moving to mostly a remote model is that it is easier to build a team of experts thanks to increased availability.  As iBase-t has strengthened its ability to deliver effective remote consulting support, this has allowed us to quickly augment teams with functional specialists as needed, on the fly. 

Similarly, our field staff also has greater availability today.  This has proven true for not just the internal iBase-t team, but with our service partners as well.  With daily team interactions between iBase-t, our customers, and our partners, project delivery is just as effective as it was pre-COVID-19.

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In MES, Microservices Deliver High Benefits

The architectural model based on microservices has emerged as the preferred method to develop software applications, particularly for those delivered via the Cloud.  Monolithic architectural models that have historically dominated application development (including MES) for the last 30-40 years are reaching the end of their useful life for a variety of reasons.  Microservices appear poised to deliver the next round of performance improvement. 

Much of the drive towards microservices by developers like iBase-t has been due to the move to the Cloud.  Every dominant Cloud provider like Microsoft Azure and Amazon’s AWS are themselves built upon a services model.  Therefore, to take full advantage of this deployment model, product re-architecting using microservices just makes sense.  

For iBase-t, like other developers, microservices facilitate faster time-to-market, allow for more scalable systems, and enable more frequent, faster product updates.  This makes it much easier to deliver and maintain solutions much like apps are delivered to your smartphone.  End users get just the functionality they want while being assured that bug fixes and product enhancements are rolled out in a transparent and timely manner.  

But the benefits of microservices go far beyond basic delivery and support improvements.

Microservices Have Many Characteristics

This architecture is, in some respects, the next evolutionary step beyond object computing.  As mentioned above, it represents a far different approach from that of monolithic applications, which has been used ever since software first penetrated the shop floor. 

The following key characteristics illustrate the depth and breadth of potential improvements that can be achieved by embracing this alternative architectural strategy:

  • Functionality is delivered as small, reusable services
  • Independent deployment
  • Utilization of lightweight communication mechanisms
  • A minimal requirement for oversight or central control 
  • Supports multiple programming languages
  • Accommodates various data storage and retrieval strategies

The question you might now ask is, “How do these developer benefits translate to better value for me, the end user?”

Microservices Provide “What You Need, When You Need It” 

To start, by moving to a microservices architecture, iBase-t can deliver product enhancements and bug fixes in a much timelier fashion. This is because microservices are inherently well suited to agile development and deployment.  

For end-users deploying in the Cloud and on a SaaS basis, this means new features and fixes can be rolled out transparently, just like apps on your smartphone often update themselves without you even knowing (if you authorize that approach).  

Microservices can also allow for better deployments since the services are built around business processes. So, a process-by-process implementation can be accommodated instead of a massive cross-business rollout, typical in older monolithic applications.  This lets you untangle the spaghetti-like mess that characterizes many typical legacy deployments that have been customized with every upgrade over time.  And, new implementations can avoid this mess from the start by taking advantage of using a Lego-like building block approach, resulting in much more supportable deployment.

Learn more about this topic by watching this webinar recording, “Why Today is a Great Time to Retire a Legacy MES.”

Not only can a microservices architecture simplify the addition of future product enhancements, but it can also ease the ability to scale an MES implementation.  Whether in the Cloud or on-premises, as demand grows for additional functionalities, new processes, or greater process capacity, it is easy to add or modify services to achieve each of these objectives.  With microservices, you deploy just what you need, just when you need it.

Application Agility Translates to Operational Flexibility

As companies ramp up their digital transformation programs while seeking to avoid Technical Debt, a microservices architecture allows for a much more phased approach to application replacement.  Instead of a rip-and-replace, massive capital project, it is now possible to deploy a phased, continuous approach.  

This allows businesses to be more agile during their initial adoption of an iBase-t solution (or any other microservices-based offering). Further, as business needs change, particularly as is the case during today’s COVID-19 era, management teams can react with greater speed and performance by deploying new services on a just-in-time basis. 

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Best-of-Breed vs. Single Suite – Picking an MES

In my last blog post, I examined the evaluation choice of an OT architecture when choosing between a Best-of-Breed or single-vendor suite approach. My conclusion was that “fewer is better than many, but one may be too few.”  In this post, I will continue this discussion but focus more on how this decision can play out for those picking an MES, or Manufacturing Execution System

The challenge many organizations face is in defining their operational technology (OT) architecture and its relationship to its overall enterprise architecture (EA).  You need to define what “few” means, which processes each system best supports, and what partners can best deliver each functionality.  

While there are processes and tools to help define your technology architecture, the key to success in picking an MES is conducting the architectural design process in a data-driven, minimally biased way. 

Note that I say minimally biased, recognizing that as humans, we all have inherent biases. To determine the scope of your MES project and the best partner to help you instantiate that vision, you should follow these steps:

  1. Designate a team lead with a management charter for the architectural process
  2. Create a cross-functional, cross-role team to execute the process
  3. Define a timeline and meet regularly to combine sub-team efforts and resolve issues
  4. Be driven by people, process, and then technology
  5. Consciously strive to keep bias to a minimum
  6. Recognize that architectures must evolve as the business evolves, it is a continuous process

By following these steps, an enterprise can readily identify the right architecture and the right partners to help achieve a successful Digital Transformation.

Management Commitment and Organizational Buy-in Critical

To be successful, management must be committed to supporting an engaged staff that is doing the right things with the right tools.  Leadership must make it clear to the organization what the mission, vision, and goals of the organization are and that they are committed to helping people be successful.  

The first step is to charter an architecture team responsible for designing what processes are needed and to select the best technology.  This architecture team should utilize a RACI model and come from across all affected parts of the organization.  

It is About People, Process, and Technology

Every architectural decision has implications on how people will accomplish a business process and what tools are required.  Even the most highly motivated staff will struggle to execute process efficiently if their technology impedes the process.  Likewise, no matter how well-designed the process and how good the technology, if people will not use it, the business will suffer.  

Your technology choices behind picking an MES must be linked to your organizational skills. 

An enterprise that opts for a single vendor suite-based approach will need much different skill set to ensure appropriate technology utilization versus an organization that opts for a multi-vendor BOB approach.  In the first case, strong skills in building User Interfaces (UIs) that are intuitive and friendly will be needed as many suite solutions are not as intuitive as BOB solutions.  And, given the typical complexity of such a UI, greater investment in training will typically be part of that choice.  

In the second scenario (BOB), it is highly likely that the products will be intuitive and easy to use but the organization will need stronger technical skills such as application interfacing skills within the IT group.  It isn’t that one approach is necessarily better than the other, it is that each approach requires different skills to be most effective.  

The Role that Agility Plays into the Decision

Beyond evaluating your organization’s skill set alignment, there is another aspect that further complicates the architectural decision – what level of agility is reasonably possible?  This is especially the case in today’s COVID-19 environment (and thereafter) where business uncertainty is higher than ever before. 

Regardless of your decision, both an enterprise and OT architecture must be able to deliver a far more heightened level of agility across operations and the overall manufacturing enterprise. In almost all situations, a BOB approach will better position an organization to adapt more flexibly.  Both the technical skills needed to support a BOB approach as well as the ability to plug in new BOB solutions that might quickly evolve in during today’s coronavirus environment and beyond, will give companies the ability to react faster. 

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3 Ways Manufacturers are Relying Upon Digitalization in Response to the Coronavirus

3 Ways Manufacturers are Relying Upon Digitalization in Response to the Coronavirus

A new paper by McKinsey, “Managing a Manufacturing Plant Through the Coronavirus Crisis,” makes it clear that effective digitalization solutions are needed more than ever to help manufacturers cope with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Many changes have been implemented or modified over the past few months as virtually every organization adjusts to how business gets done. For the manufacturing industry, greater reliance on digital operations has grown critical to surviving. 

There are three ways manufacturers are adapting to the “new normal” of today’s coronavirus conditions – each involving the adoption of digitalization strategies to overcome the business conditions that the coronavirus now requires: 

  1. How will your workforce be suitably protected?
  2. What can be done to manage risk more effectively?
  3. How do you drive greater productivity? 

1. Protect the Workforce

Many companies have formalized processes, procedures, and tools to address the immediate situation, aimed at keeping personnel safe. What may be missing, however, is a longer-term view of how the business world is going to be re-shaped by current events. 

Once the pandemic is over, it is highly likely that manufacturers will be expected to develop comprehensive policies concerning hygiene, personal protective equipment (PPE), physical distancing, and workflows. McKinsey listed possible areas of attention such as health surveillance, minimization of communal tools, equipment sanitization, deep cleans, and revised sick leave guidelines. 

On the regulatory front, the aerospace, defense, and medical device manufacturing industries could see an introduction of new rulings on areas such as mandatory sick pay and stricter limitations on product and personal contact.

It is reasonable to assume that assembly lines will be overhauled. Team structures are probably going to be altered to restrict the volume of personal contact. The number of hands touching a component or system are also likely to be greatly reduced. This has repercussions in areas such as maintenance, shift organization, supervision, management, and quality control. 

Digital systems will play a central role in this reorganization. By continuing to increase the productivity of each individual worker, technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will continue to be invested in to drive productivity such that few workers will be needed “on-premises” or in close proximity to each other. 

2. Better Manage Risk

Risk management has always been a core element of manufacturing and other operations. But its importance just ramped up a notch or two. Top management is looking to digitalization strategies in the coronavirus era to anticipate trends, model responses to market fluctuations, and prevent unnecessary economic exposure. 

See this related article: “Reduce the Risk of an MES Deployment by Thinking like a Venture Capitalist.”

The need to re-evaluate risk ties into the rise of the remote workforce. Many office workers who currently find themselves working from home may never return to the office. Businesses are realizing that many functions do not need to be onsite – nor does every software application, including those directly tied to ensuring production activities are completed. 

In addition, supervisory, management, maintenance, and quality control personnel may find themselves denied free access to areas of the factory flow. Instead, remote management and inspection software as well as virtual and augmented reality (AR) tools will be introduced in greater numbers to contain risk and automate processes.

3. Continue to Drive Productivity 

Despite going through a global pandemic, manufacturers must always be keeping an eye on productivity improvement – albeit some of this focus may have taken a back seat given today’s environment. Nonetheless, a time will come when this topic will come back up. It is always vital to effectively manage plant and organization performance.

Physical distancing may remain in place for some time – even after it is deemed no longer necessary to arrest the pandemic. The reality is that the threat from a global pandemic is now much more widely understood. Some companies may permanently rearrange the workplace to reduce worker interaction in anticipation of the next outbreak. But this must be done in a way that does not inhibit productivity. 

Further, remote work policies introduced in the early days of the pandemic could well continue in many organizations. Instead of a self-contained office environment onsite to oversee manufacturing operations, the onsite ranks are likely to be thinned down. Functions such as graphics design, planning, administration, account management, and other roles may be moved to a home office setting, at least part of the time. Digitalization initiatives, therefore, will be ramped up to support such changes.  


The Acceleration and Elevation of Digitalization Programs

Many of these changes were already in the process of being implemented or under evaluation. The coronavirus has now accelerated the need to move digitalization strategies forward in many manufacturing environments. Remote management applications, smart glasses, augmented reality-based maintenance, remote monitoring of equipment, predictive analytics to detect problems in advance to isolate trends, video conferencing and collaboration apps, digital twins, online learning, and workforce scheduling software are a few of the technologies that are expected to be increasingly deployed. 

Specific to the manufacturing floor, no manufacturing application or system can operate in isolation. Such applications will be upgraded to support end-to-end digitalization of core plant processes. These applications must be able to seamlessly share information – not just within the enterprise but with customers and supply chain partners, too. 

In the end, we are all going through an enormous transformation that will result in a new baseline of expectations on how manufacturing activities are performed. Hopefully, from all the lessons learned, we will get to a better place with regards to workforce safety, risk management, and process improvement. At least in time for the next global disruption, which I suspect will not be too far in the future! 

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iBase-t Strengthens Leadership Team to Accelerate Growth

Robust demand for digital transformation across model-based manufacturing and sustainment
operations drive hiring for new finance and European sales leadership

FOOTHILL RANCH, Calif. – August 4, 2020 iBase-t, a leading provider of manufacturing, quality and MRO solutions, today announced a strengthening of their executive leadership team with a new hire and promotion – Daniel De Haas, Vice President, Finance and Evan Sloss, Director, EMEA Sales. Each brings new skills and experience to help lead the company’s aggressive growth plans.

Daniel De Haas, reporting to Naveen Poonian, will ensure iBase-t’s financial plan meets the company’s aggressive strategic vision. Bringing 20+ years of international Accounting, Controlling and Finance leadership from public Fortune-500 and privately held distribution and manufacturing companies, Daniel De Haas will play a critical role in providing the necessary infrastructure to help enable the company’s future expected growth in the US, Europe and worldwide.

“Having experienced hyper-growth at my previous employer, I see many similarities in the market opportunity that iBase-t now faces,” said Daniel De Haas. “I am excited to provide the financial leadership to ensure the right investments are made to best grow our business.”

Evan Sloss, who recently joined iBase-t as Head of Business in the United Kingdom (see the previous announcement) will expand his role to Director, EMEA Sales. iBase-t sees great interest and growth opportunities from complex, highly regulated manufactures across Europe. Global challenges are now forcing an accelerated deployment of digital transformation programs. Evan Sloss, based out of the UK, is ideally positioned to lead this growth across Europe. 

“The manufacturing industry is at a critical junction on how to best produce high-quality goods within a highly dynamic and regulated environment,” said Evan Sloss. “The need to digitally integrate operations has never been greater – especially across Europe. The timing is right for iBase-t’s solution.” 

“Our aggressive growth strategy is now gaining traction in both the US and Europe. These additions to our executive ranks can better align our business to keep pace. Each executive brings strong leadership skills and industry experience to the iBase-t team. Now is a critical time for manufacturers to recognize the need to go paperless with new digital solutions,” said Naveen Poonian. “We are committed to driving innovation by investing in people, products, and processes as validated by today’s announcement.”


About iBase-t
iBase-t is a leading provider of manufacturing, quality and MRO solutions that enable digital continuity across the enterprise. With 30+ years of experience in highly engineered, regulated industries, iBase-t simplifies the complex by empowering customers to gain real-time visibility, take control, and drive velocity across their operations and extended value chain. iBase-t works closely with industry leaders, including Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Rolls Royce, Pratt & Whitney, and Patria Belgium Engine Center. Learn more at iBase-t.com.