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The family run firm has expanded significantly since it first started selling organic milk from its Somerset dairy herd in the 1970s. It still runs its £300m turnover business from the family farm, but now manufactures its produce across four sites in the south west, working in partnership with 250 organic dairies.
Dairy produce has an extremely short shelf life, so production and delivery times are strict, with producers facing financial penalties from buyers if they fail to meet them. Yeo Valley was operating on an iFix SCADA application which was running on legacy hardware. A problem with any one computer would risk bringing the entire production site to a halt. Whilst Yeo Valley had a disaster resilience solution in place, the ‘redundant’ back-up server had to be booted up before systems could be restored. Vessels emptied of product as a result of production downtime then had to be re-primed – all taking up valuable time and leading to a recovery time objective (RTO) that could stretch to several hours.
The impact of downtime can be as damaging to reputation as to profitability. With around seven million pots of yogurt alone coming off Yeo Valley production lines every week and production running 24/7 round the year, the potential implications in terms of operational downtime, cost of wasted product and supply chain disruption were critical, and the need to ensure seamless, uninterrupted operations a key business priority.
Yeo Valley therefore decided to migrate away from its aging hardware and embark on a full upgrade of its SCADA technology. A key objective was to establish a secure systems back-up provision, to protect data in the event of an issue arising with any platform.
SolutionsPT devised an integrated digital solution to meet Yeo Valley’s requirement for best in class uptime and data protection, while also making day-to-day operations and support simpler.
This comprised a fault tolerant Stratus ftServer to host virtualised production machines. Unlike other high availability solutions, the Stratus ftServer is easy to deploy, manage and service, while offering 99.999% availability.
The centralised management solution, Thin Manager, was deployed to deliver applications to the plant floor via Thin Client architectures. The reduced maintenance and energy costs it offers also helps to deliver a reduction in total cost of ownership (TCO).
With data protection a key objective for the Yeo Valley team, the Proteus managed disaster resilience service was installed, providing hourly back-up of critical applications and systems. Proteus provides early ransomware detection protection, as well as the ability to run critical applications in the event of a disaster, where the normal server would not be available.
Ian Govier, Yeo Valley’s Head of IT and Business Systems, said: “The SolutionsPT digital solution means the risk that one single point of failure could halt production across a site has been eliminated.
“Virtualisation also offers us far greater control in terms of production. We’re able to spot and deal with potential failures before they happen. And in the event of a true disaster such as a factory fire, our data is protected. Essentially, we have a whole virtual factory on a different site, so systems could be restored within a matter of minutes.”
The Proteus solution was specified to allow for expansion across all Yeo Valley production sites and, since the SolutionsPT operational technology (OT) solution went live in August 2018, Yeo Valley has installed additional production-based applications. SolutionsPT also provides remote monitoring of the back-up and recovery process, providing the Yeo Valley team with ongoing expertise and guidance.
The SolutionsPT digital solution means Yeo Valley has eliminated the risk of extended periods of downtime which might have proved costly both to company finances and its high reputation. Potential risks to operational efficiency are swiftly signposted so timely action can be taken in the event of any system failure, with no reinstallation required. As these are real time copies of the VM (virtual machine) they can be simply fired up and get full production back up and running within minutes. Product supply – and those all-important customer relations – will remain unaffected.
This has lifted a burden off the Yeo Valley operatives tasked with managing backups and testing data integrity and restorability. The guarantee of operational resilience is also a great time-saver. The Yeo Valley management team can now concentrate on other strategic priorities to meet the growing demand for its products, safe in the knowledge that its operational systems are running efficiently and securely.
Ian Govier continued: “SolutionsPT has been a great partner, delivering a technical solution that ensures Yeo Valley can guarantee the seamless and secure operations that are vital to our food production. Disaster recovery is now massively more robust, giving us confidence that any potential issues are instantly spotted and nipped in the bud.
“We’re benefiting not only from a recovery time objective (RTO) which can be measured in minutes rather than hours, but also from a system which is robust, secure and provides complete peace of mind.
“This frees us up to focus on other strategic priorities which support Yeo Valley’s reputation as a highly trusted supplier.”
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