Exploring Connection Between Manufacturing and DevOps

As a DevOps evangelist, one of my passions and responsibilities lies in spreading my awareness. DevOps is a conscious effort to dispel myths about what is – and is not. It is important to explain how DevOps means “your” industry, how it is helping “your industry leaders” make transformational change. There is a need to generate genuine interest and understanding in this field. Does the same thing.

As part of my role, I had to discuss the subject with the “manufacturing” team of Zenser.

The team consisted of domain experts who come from this “more traditional mind-set”; People who have spent the better part of their lives working at this place. My regular decks deck variants around cloud, e-commerce, retail space will not hold relevance for these experts. I really needed to redesign the presentation ground – even if I had a fleeting chance to “impress” this fantastic audience.

Is this really relevant? Or would I need to make a retro-fit for this?
I have reminisced about my previous roles in previous companies, trying to promote my learning and implement in this “new” DevOps world during my early career days?

The more I researched, the more I realized how deep the connection really was – that perhaps manufacturing was actually inspired by most DevOps core principles. It was similar to many other new-old ways and ideas.

Some obvious connections are:

Standard Parts:   One of the first things I learned in my earlier CAD modeling experience was to experiment with Standard Parts. I still remember what fun contraceptives I came up with! At DevOps, we start with consulting, first understanding its standard parts and asking questions such as: Is the client using SVN / Git / Perforce for source control; Flaws are tracked in cumin / rally / remedy; Are the constructions done in TFS / Jenkins / Bamboo, etc.? The standard parts that make up the entire system. Post this process, we start talking these standard parts to each other. And Devo’s journey to maturity begins.

Common, Reusable Platforms:   Manufacturing advances the concept of true reusable. Where a chassis system was used again for generations of cars. And closer to home in DevOps, we are now hearing these same concepts with micro-services.

Martin Fowler says: ”  A micro-service architecture puts each element of functionality into a separate service … and iterates as needed, by distributing these services to servers.” The entire ecosystem of Docker / Mesos / Kubernetics / etc. Is based on these concepts. Common, re-usable platform.

Automated repeatable processes:   This has long been a manufacturing restriction and has given rise to many software philosophies.
Automation has been the driver here too – with DevOps, it takes companies to a whole new level of business enablement, empowering companies to release, say, release multiple times a day. With the right set of levers (eg tooling / process / culture), this elusive FTTM is being realized in more businesses

Standardized Infrastructure:   Mention a shop-floor and we envision a subtle, clockwork standardized, functional factory. One that produces thousands of “same things” every day, also with complete accuracy.
Now we are also describing software as “software factory”. With its own “supply-chain” of vendors, 3rd party components et.al.

Even in virtualization automation, the concept of “Infrastructure-as-Code” is exactly this. Create several “similar things” in minutes. Standardized infrastructure.

Instrumentation and Control: I remember visiting a boiler unit in my engineering days and being completely infected with pressure gauges and powerful looking sensors! We found that these are important monitors that “monitor” machines.
In Software Parliament, we have seen a group of monitoring software which does this including Nagoya, Gangalia, New Relic, Cacti of the world. Important matrix to monitor the pressure gauge of the software.

Continuous Integration:   Legend has it that Henry Ford called it immaculate – “any customer can color any color he wants as long as he is black.” And as DevOps’ continued integration into maturity, there is literature around “the constant new is black”. The basics, repeated 50 years later and provoking again.

The basics that manufacturing has taught us.

Researching how manufacturing is connected to DevOps and connecting my thoughts about it has brought a completely new perspective around DevOps. I realize that, what we talk of today as “bleeding-age” is actually a very solid, ancient foundation. And that we’re just building on stuff that’s been around for a long time … maybe even longer than you or me have been around!

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