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COVID-19: How digital readiness empowers Tata Steel to run uninterrupted plant and office operations globally

During the last 10 days of the lock-down period, about 150,000 internal user sessions have been recorded in the IT systems. This is in addition to the normal communication and collaboration, 2000+ on-line meetings happening per day and the system access sessions initiated from external stakeholders like customer, suppliers etc

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When asked about the preparedness of Tata Steel to manage the COVID-19 crisis, Jayanta Banerjee, Group CIO, Tata Steel rightly said: “We didn’t need a COVID for us to prove that we are future ready, in fact, the current crisis only vindicates our efforts and investment in the digital transformation journey,” pointing towards the level of business process and operations digitisation the company is undergoing. It naturally puts the company in a sweet spot position to absorb the shocks from the COVID-19 disruption, without any turbulence. Express Computer did a story in 2019 with Jayanta Banerjee about the digital transformation at Tata Steel.

Digital readiness negates COVID-19 impact on official operations
As part of its digital transformation programme, Tata Steel has heavily invested, adopted and improved on cloud computing, connectivity and cyber Security and this has powered the company to the “Anytime-Anywhere Compute” platform. The platform has been in place from mid of 2019 and the roll-out to users happened during the period of Oct-Dec 2019. The platform enables employees to get modular access to systems irrespective of their location (office or home or any out-of-office location) they are in and when their device is connected to the Internet with as little as a stable 3G or a stable wi-fi connection. More importantly, security is an integral part of the “Anytime-Anywhere Compute” platform. The company has also invested heavily on cyber security controls and no incidents have been reported thus far.

It’s important to note, even as we speak, there are over eight thousand employees, only in India who are accessing the systems created on the Tata steel Group network.  In Tata Steel Europe, there are six to eight thousand active home workers on a daily basis.

‘Security and Seamless accessibility’ are the two major criteria on which anywhere-anytime concept has been designed.

The information security policies have to be created and deployed by educating the employees, by training and instructions on do’s and don’ts. That is however one way to look at it. Typically, the employees need to be retrained; more restrictions have to be put in place to match the industry grade security rolled out in the enterprise environment to be applicable in a work from home scenario. “In Tata Steel Limited, the security policy is enforced consistently with technology in such a manner that there is no dependency on human discretion or judgement and therefore no visible difference for users while working from home. The security policies which governs the user in office, moves in the backend powered by state-of-the-art technology as part of the platform to home and out-of-office location. Thus, the requirement of retraining on security aspect is minimal. As soon as the employee logs into the network, the information security policies are automatically activated on the device,” says Banerjee.

The other aspect to anywhere-anytime computing is the ‘seamless connectivity’ to the Company infrastructure irrespective of the physical location. Given the internet connectivity is decent. Tata Steel has leveraged cloud based secure private access technology for seamless access to Tata Steel IT Systems. The Company provided devices get automatically connected to the IT applications and systems based in line with authorisation and access profile of the user. For devices which are not provided by Tata Steel, a secured working environment is created by state-of-the-art Application Virtualisation platform, which essentially delivers a secure corporate application container in the non-Tata Steel device where transfer of files between the personal and corporate folders gets restricted by the technology. In case of users working on their personal devices using the application virtualisation platform, all the work is automatically stored in Tata Steel controlled cloud servers.

Seamless Communication & Collaboration
The Company’s IT communication and collaboration uses state-of-the-art cloud platform for e-mail, workflow, secure data exchange amongst users, on-line meetings etc. The platform is seamlessly accessible only through Company registered devices on various operating systems platform viz. windows, iOS, Android irrespective of location. In mobile devices, it draws a line between the personal and Company data, which is stored in the respective containers – personal data in the personal container and Company data in the Company container. In March 2020, when one third of the month has been a lock-down period, 22000 users accessed or pumped in more than 50 terabytes of data in communication and collaboration platform in Tata Steel India.

“In the wake of COVID-19, the global workforce is currently operating from home on this anywhere-anytime environment without any physical meetings as employees are not coming to office. On a daily basis, we are doing over 2000 on-line meetings with a peak number of about 3500 users participating in a group level meeting,” informs Banerjee.

The Company has invested in digitally enabled Smart Classroom for learning. These virtual classroom sessions can be attended by participants over video conferencing platforms enabled through state-of-the-art video conference front-end tools and browsers.

The power of cloud
The adoption of cloud computing has also come in handy, because it enables access to the corporate network irrespective of the geography. All the enterprise systems, SAP, analytics, collaboration, email are on cloud. Tata Steel is on multi-cloud platform eliminating single point of failure of all platforms together.

Before the adoption of cloud, when data was residing on different systems, the employees couldn’t access data easily; however post adopting cloud, data has been democratised and the data access has jumped like never before. To provide people with the necessary data to enable efficient decisions and create business value, we are running analytics or AI models on the data.

In last week of March 2020, the tally of the system and the users accessed is as follows:
ERP system – 25000 users
Communication and collaboration cloud – 40000 users
Manufacturing Execution System (MES) – more than 1000 users

Unhindered plant operations
Apart from the employees, the shop floor managers are also able to actively monitor the operations of the manufacturing plants. They are able to work seamlessly with the smart plant applications by viewing the camera feed of the steel manufacturing plant on their devices – be it laptop or tablet or mobile device. The company’s network operations centre, smart plant operations centre, are visible on the device.

During the last 10 days of the lock-down period, about 150,000 internal user sessions (India: 80k, TSE: 70k) have been recorded in the IT systems. This is in addition to the normal communication and collaboration, 2000+ on-line meetings happening per day and the system access sessions initiated from external stakeholders like customer, suppliers etc.

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