Yaskawa has led the world in industrial automation since the first Motoman robot in 1977. In the 40 years since then, the Japanese firm has produced over 300,000 industrial robots.
Yaskawa Europe brings design and production facilities close to Yaskawa’s customers in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Thirty offices and seven production sites are connected using the best available WAN technologies in each location: MPLS lines, broadband, DSL, and even radio
IT Coordinator Andrée Bengtsson explains, “We have a big MPLS network, but it is expensive and rather slow. Every office has a backup line, but we cannot use that unless the main line fails.”
Slow connections between offices limited collaboration by making it impossible to use video or audio conferencing or to share large design files. As Bengtsson explains, “Even for an office just 50km from our data center, it could take 25 minutes to open a single CAD drawing.”
Yaskawa’s international ERP system, SAP, is hosted in the company’s Japanese headquarters.
“The distance caused latency problems,” Bengtsson says. “SAP itself is very good, but peripheral activities like printing caused delays on the line. It could take two or three seconds just to enter a single value, which caused staff big problems. You just can’t work when the connection is that slow.”
To improve network performance, Bengtsson worked with Gold Citrix Solution Advisor Advitum, which recommended Citrix SD-WAN and support from Citrix Consulting Services.
“When we installed SD-WAN, it was such a dramatic improvement that users called us up asking, ‘What have you done with the connection?’” Bengtsson says.
“As soon as we connected SD-WAN, even before we configured it, drawings that had taken 25 minutes to open were ready in just 5 — an improvement of 80 percent.”
Using SD-WAN’s QoS functionality, Bengtsson optimized the network to prioritize key workloads and applications. For SAP users, their input is routed through the fastest connections, while printing is allocated to a slower line. Virtualized CAD applications and video or audio traffic are similarly prioritized over other traffic, helping Yaskawa’s staff be more productive.
“We compared different solutions, but Citrix SD-WAN worked best for us. It’s one of the best packages. It’s easy to use and gives you so much control from a single user interface. We can make all the changes in just a few clicks. That saves a lot of time for IT and for users,” Bengtsson says. “We also get a more reliable connection. We’ve seen a huge improvement in performance, and we can build up redundancy in the network using all available connections in a cheaper way than with other solutions.”
Sharing large CAD files between locations and using Skype for Business for video and audio conferencing helps Yaskawa improve internal collaboration, drawing on its most talented engineers wherever they are located.
Once SD-WAN is fully deployed in Europe, Bengtsson plans to switch Yaskawa’s telephony to a VoIP system and further centralize the company’s IT systems.
“Because of past acquisitions, we have five or six different CAD systems in Europe,” he explains. “That makes collaboration more difficult. Our next step will be to centralize more applications and data in a common data center. That will help enable even more collaboration and lower costs further. SD-WAN was an important first step because of the long distances from offices to data center.”
Yaskawa plans to move from MPLS to local broadband connections in all its smaller offices. Larger locations will retain MPLS but will be supplemented with less costly, more flexible broadband connections.
“It is difficut to quantify all the benefits,” Bengtsson says. “Certainly, costs will be reduced by removing expensive MPLS lines, but there are other benefits, too. Before SD-WAN, people’s time was wasted by long latencies, and they can now be much more efficient. We estimate that the project will pay for itself in less than one year.”