Coats Increases Resiliency in Supply Chain System with IT-Conductor Automation

two-gearAbout Coats

Coats Group PLC has been helping to connect and form the fabric of daily life on our planet for over 250 years as a leader in textile manufacturing technology. It is a fact that more than 90% of the world’s wearable fabric contains threads that have passed through Coats textile machines. Coats is an innovative and trusted value-adding partner, providing critical supply chain components and services to the $1.8tn (pre-Covid) global Apparel & Footwear industry. The company has more than 19,000 employees across 60 countries and its enterprise systems run on SAP across a large HANA landscape.

The Challenges

Coats operate a critical just-in-time global supply chain that processes customer orders, with on-demand production planning of input materials, textile manufacturing, and delivery promise to customers. Each end-to-end process depends on workflows that cross between ERP systems to the Supply Chain Management (SCM) system. These depend on asynchronous jobs and queues which must be processed in a timely manner in order to meet production planning needs for thousands of daily orders worldwide. Any breaks in these processes which go unnoticed and quickly fixed would result in delays downstream that could potentially disrupt the plant floors, as well as many customer and partner operations.

Customer Pain Points

The sheer volume of critical jobs and queue objects that flow through the SCM system requires constant monitoring and timely error handling usually managed by a large team. Prior to the IT-Conductor solution being implemented, the SCM operations team needed 24x7 coverage with at least 10 personnel to manually perform the tasks below:

  1. Performing health checks on the global SCM system
  2. Monitoring the availability and performance of the SCM system running with HANA on Azure
  3. Executing complex SAP administrative and repetitive tasks some of which include the following:
    • Workload Monitoring of Critical Job runtime performance and status
    • Critical Application Availability and Performance Monitoring
    • Extensive qRFC Monitoring and Recovery when they fail or get stuck
    • HANA Database Monitoring
    • Linux Performance Monitoring
    • SAP SCM Syslog Monitoring

The Solutions

Coats migrated SAP to Azure running on HANA in the 2017-2018 timeframe as part of its cloud and digital transformation journey. IT-Conductor was chosen as the cloud-native monitoring and automation tool to enhance the observability of the SCM process. Coats was experiencing performance bottlenecks on its SCM system as well as disruptions in queue message processing (SAP qRFC), especially with a lot of inbound queues from multiple ERP systems. As a result, Coats looked to IT-Conductor for an intelligent way to actively monitor the critical jobs against key service levels, as well as track the age and status of inbound queues and automate their restart to resolve the majority of related issues.

Intelligent Application Performance Management (APM)

The implementation of the monitoring tool was fast and easy with immediate results. Within a few hours, IT-Conductor monitored critical jobs and queues with precise root-cause analysis (RCA) observability.

We had the monitoring of our SCM system up and running within a single collaborative web session. The IT-Conductor team was able to capture specific details of long running jobs and queue failures, which provided actionable short-term fixes, while recommending auto-recoveries for queues that were only possible via manual intervention previously. The manpower saving and quick mean-time-to-repair (MTTR) that could be realized was obvious, especially when IT-Conductor can automate it 24x7.

- Vishwanath Narasimmal, Global Head of SAP and Cloud Infrastructure Services, Coats

Performance Intelligence and Policy-based Automation with the patented agentless IT-Conductor platform links all the components in the entire SAP system, discovering applications, databases, and underlying virtualized infrastructure allows relating issues to resolution much faster.

Both the standard and custom dashboards provide a single pane of glass for the global health of the critical business system at a glance while allowing context-sensitive drill-down for further details and one-click RCA. This approach minimizes the noise and focuses only high priority exceptions which can potentially impact SLAs. These exceptions are automatically addressed by recovery actions to maximize performance and availability, for example, to recover from errors such as job and queue failures, therefore efficiently improving service resiliency.

Queue Age and Error Detection with Auto-recovery

Figure 1.1 Queue Age and Error Detection with Auto-recovery

In Figure 1.1, Queue Age and Error Detection with Auto-recovery Dashboard - the state and age of each SAP qRFC message are monitored with precision and thresholds to trigger auto queue restart upon error detection, or if the message is stuck beyond a specific age. This approach auto-manages thousands of queues with their individual metrics per hour, significantly beyond what any human could potentially do.

Integrated Dashboard & Reporting

The dashboard acts as a single source of truth, showing all components of the landscape (i.e. application servers, databases, etc.) along with color-coded status displays. This gives administrators the convenience of keeping an eye on the different SAP systems in one place.

With the role-based features of the IT-Conductor platform, administrators can control what a user can see and do within the landscape. This allows dashboards to be customized according to the preferences of the user or their respective access level.

Users also do not need to log in to the application servers and issue several commands. Once a component has been registered for monitoring, it will automatically feed the platform which then allows all information from different systems and applications across varying platforms to be received in one place, along with alerts if objects exceed the defined threshold.

Most significantly, the drill-down feature of the IT-Conductor platform is intelligent enough to allow any component of the entire SAP system landscape to be investigated at a granular level. This aids administrators in troubleshooting and performance analysis. Quite often, only a single click is needed to highlight the root cause of issues in the monitored application or service.

Monitoring

Monitoring SAP covers availability monitoringalerts managementperformance management, and reporting.

Availability Monitoring

Monitoring availability in IT-Conductor is straightforward. Once a component is registered and configured for monitoring, the tool automatically detects its status.

In Figure 2.1, for Coats SCM (APO) Performance Dashboard, you can see at a glance all system component availability by color and percentage. You can also see the severity status of each of the components in your environment. This allows administrators to have a high-level view of what systems need attention and recovery actions to maintain good system health.

Performance Management

Monitoring availability information alone is ineffectual without fully knowing its relationship with your service level objectives. By configuring the threshold and overrides, Coats was able to customize the alerts and notifications according to the defined SLA and KPIs by the business, entire system performance overview to end-user response times and critical job inflight runtimes, customizable to specific jobs.

Coats SCM APO Performance Dashboard

Figure 2.1 Coats SCM (APO) Performance Dashboard

Performance management in IT-Conductor involves easier comparisons between periods—whether per minute, hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually— all in a graphical format.

Alerts Management

Most monitoring solutions treat alerts as events without much context or relationship. IT-Conductor manages alerts more effectively by using policy-based exceptions where alerts can be filtered, time-synchronized, and automatically recovered, including targeted notification to the right analyst reducing the mean time to repair (MTTR).

Reporting

The IT-Conductor Dashboard offers a highly flexible SAP Service Level reporting that can be sent straight to a list of recipients. This allows reports to be sent automatically versus manually checking the customized dashboard. Either way, performing health checks is significantly easier using the platform versus manually logging in to your systems.

Self-healing

In Figure 3.1, Coats Health SLA, Alerting and Automation Overview Dashboard highlight the health status with drill-down capability, alerts in the last 24 hours/current week, along with the recovery actions taken. Clicking on each bar would list the actual time and recoveries automated.

Coats Health SLA, Alerting and Automation Overview Dashboard

Figure  3.1 Coats Health SLA, Alerting and Automation Overview Dashboard

IT-Conductor continued to work seamlessly with Coats during the COVID-19 pandemic to support its mission of delivering critical textile needed for personal protection equipment manufacturing such as face masks and hospital wear, especially when remote management was the mode of operation from a global hybrid workforce.

- Helge Brummer, VP of Technology & Operations, Coats