Navigating the Complexities of Legacy Systems in Manufacturing

Software plays a pivotal role in manufacturing, which is why companies need application modernisation services to keep their competitive advantage.

Navigating the Complexities of Legacy Systems in Manufacturing

In the complex landscape of the manufacturing industry, software plays a pivotal role, serving as the backbone that coordinates processes, optimises efficiency, and drives business growth.  

However, a challenge that many organisations are facing is the increasing demand for new functionalities that can't be accommodated by the outdated software within their IT ecosystems. The manufacturing sector is in a difficult position, where the legacy software that once powered its operations is becoming a bottleneck rather than an enabler. Outdated systems struggle to keep pace with the dynamic demands of modern production, pose security risks, and limit the integration of emerging technologies.  

Thankfully, manufacturers can solve this challenge with help from an experienced tech partner, specifically through application modernisation services, which open the door for new, seamless, and innovative operations. 

This article dives into the most common causes for concern and business pain points generated by legacy software and how a technology partner can help organisations solve these issues quickly, efficiently, and with minimal disruption to their business as usual. 

Why the manufacturing industry needs Application Modernisation 

Just as digital solutions have the potential to solve a wide range of problems, that same software can also cause new challenges as it ages. These are just some of the most common pain points our application modernisation specialists have solved for manufacturing in our 19 years of experience: 

  1. Inefficient Processes:

    Outdated software can lead to inefficient workflows and processes. Modernisation enables the integration of newer technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), real-time monitoring, and data analytics, allowing manufacturers to streamline operations, reduce manual intervention, and optimise production processes.    

  2. Lack of Comprehensive Overview:

    Manufacturing involves vast amounts of data from various sources such as production, supply chain, quality control, and more. Legacy systems often create data silos, making it challenging to gain a holistic view of operations. Modern software solutions facilitate data integration and centralised access, enabling better decision-making based on comprehensive insights.    

  3. Low Scalability:

    Legacy systems might struggle to accommodate growth and changing business needs. Modernised software can be designed to scale effectively, allowing manufacturers to expand operations, introduce new products, and adapt to market demands seamlessly.    

  4. Regulatory Compliance:

    Manufacturing is subject to various industry regulations and standards. Modern software can be designed with compliance in mind, helping manufacturers adhere to these requirements by incorporating necessary features and ensuring accurate record-keeping.    

  5. Complex Inventory and Supply Chain Management:

    Managing inventory and supply chain logistics is critical in manufacturing. Modern software can offer advanced inventory tracking, demand forecasting, and supplier collaboration tools, enhancing efficiency and reducing the risk of stockouts or excess inventory.    

  6. Poor Quality Control and Assurance:

    Ensuring product quality is essential to maintain customer satisfaction and reputation. Modernisation can incorporate quality control mechanisms, real-time monitoring, and automated testing to identify defects early in production.    

  7. Ineffective Collaboration and Communication:

    Manufacturing often involves cross-functional teams working together. Legacy systems often lack effective communication and collaboration features, reducing efficiency. Modern software can offer tools for real-time collaboration, file sharing, and communication across departments and locations.    

  8. Increased Downtime and Maintenance:

    Outdated software systems can lead to frequent downtime due to maintenance and troubleshooting issues. Modern software can reduce downtime by offering remote monitoring, predictive maintenance, and rapid issue resolution.    

  9. Low Customisation and Innovation Potential:

    As legacy applications do not use the latest technologies and best practices, they have less potential for customisation and innovation. Modern software solutions are often more customisable and adaptable to specific manufacturing processes. This flexibility allows manufacturers to innovate, experiment with new production methods, and differentiate themselves in the market.    

  10. Decreased Worker Productivity:

    Complex user interfaces and a shortage of staff that know how to navigate them can slow down the production process and reduce employee satisfaction. User-friendly interfaces and intuitive workflows in modern software can improve worker productivity. Training new employees becomes easier, and experienced workers can focus on tasks that add more value to the organisation.    

  11. Outdated Data Security:

    Legacy systems might have vulnerabilities that can expose the manufacturing process to cyber threats. An experienced tech partner can build modern solutions with robust security features to protect sensitive data, intellectual property, and operational information.   

As you’ve seen, application modernisation services help with many problems that manufacturers may face. But there is also the question of how the solution can be implemented quickly, efficiently, and with as little disruption as possible. 

At Accesa, we’ve developed workflows, internal know-how and team capabilities to ensure that application modernisation projects go smoothly and generate increased business value for our clients: 

How Accesa delivers value through Application Modernisation 

Our modernisation specialists are ready to deliver end-to-end project coverage and can operate as autonomous teams. We’ve cultivated a group of subject matter experts with deep knowledge of the most commonly used technologies and platforms in manufacturing software. 

We guide our partners through four major phases, which are designed to deliver tangible results quickly and maximise business value: 

1. Discover 

Our specialists start by understanding the entire landscape and context for the modernisation project. They assess the existing IT landscape, infrastructure and solutions to understand the business, users, technical challenges, modernisation objectives, and current pain points, as well as identify the opportunities. 

With this information, we frame feasible modernisation project scopes and envision high-level priorities and roadmaps to ensure we build the right solution with the best approach. The whole modernisation journey is planned around the client's business goals and needs. 

2. Validate 

The team develops prototypes and proofs of concept (POCs) to confirm the solution's alignment with business goals and its technological feasibility.  

This phase strengthens the business case for modernisation, facilitates internal approval or funding, facilitates the collection of early user feedback through testing, and serves as a pivotal step in confirming the project's course before investing substantial resources.  

3. Develop 

Development is a crucial component of the Application Modernization service, and it involves creating, testing, and deploying new code to modernise legacy applications. This may involve updating the existing codebase or creating new code to replace outdated or inefficient legacy code.  

4. Manage 

After deployment, we ensure that the modernised application remains up-to-date, efficient, and effective over time. By providing ongoing support for user experience testing, user adoption, and continuous updates, the modernisation team can help make certain that the organisation's investment in modernising its legacy application continues to pay long-term dividends. 

Modernisation success stories 

The Accesa team has built strong and long-lasting partnerships by integrating into our customers' value chains, actively sharing our know-how, and building personal relationships with the people we help. The value of application modernisation services shines through two such success stories in which we helped our clients update and innovate their legacy systems: 

One of our customers is a leading supplier of high-tech measuring and laboratory equipment. Their application was designed on a deprecated software framework, an end-of-life MFC, leading to low performance and difficulties in adding new features. Starting with a comprehensive three-day audit workshop, we focused on modernising the code, optimising its performance, and enhancing UI/UX, with additional workshops at key points to outline the application's key features.  

The modernised application facilitates faster and more accurate measurements while also using a much improved, more user-friendly interface. The modernised code simplifies maintenance and new feature development, reducing the time between releases from once every two years to once every six months. 

Read the full story of how we helped our client modernise their manufacturing software.

The other project we want to highlight is for a large supplier of systems for short-staple fibre spinning. Their sales department’s 30-year-old custom software was becoming difficult to use, and it was becoming difficult to generate quotes. The legacy software couldn’t be updated or scaled up as all the developers familiar with the programming language had retired. The Accesa team decided to start from the business flow and known use cases to design a new application while reverse engineering the old code. 

The new solution is a highly maintainable, configurable and scalable new sales platform with modern technology and features. This platform has an attractive user interface and offers a lean, modern user experience for the more than 200 employees who have been using it since its launch. 

Learn more about the full scope and impact of the application modernisation project.