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Service Level Agreements (SLA) are traditionally seen as an insurance policy. It’s great when you need it but its value tends to be questioned after a few years, if it’s not fully leveraged.
The situation has become worse over the last few years, coming out of the mining downturn, as many miners decided to take the ‘risk’ of not renewing their SLA in order to reduce their operational costs. The direct savings might have been obvious but the indirect costs of not renewing have often been overlooked.
We will look at five indirect costs your SLA helps address.
1. Cost of your resources’ time
No matter the type of issue your team faces – whether it be connectivity, data access or something else – troubleshooting is not always straight-forward. Your personnel know your site, but may not understand the engineering behind some of the products and integration your site uses?
In such cases, involvement of your vendor might be necessary, unless your team is ready to commit the next few days or weeks learning about the systems integration behind the problem in question. In our experience with dealing with large corporations, it is plainly clear that we don’t receive the level of support and engineering required in a timely manner, unless we are on an active SLA and have the ability to escalate issues accordingly and fast.
The question then becomes: Can the issues your site faces always wait?
2. Cost of a secured wireless network
Security has been front of mind in the IT world for many years. However, it is still not always a priority in the OT world, sometimes by lack of knowledge or lack of budget to justify a full-time position to manage it at site. Regular security updates and penetration tests can prevent your site from being at risk.
Introduction of LTE in North America will make mines even more susceptible to attacks. Having an active SLA with a network vendor who knows your site’s network and understand security will ensure you remain protected to the highest level.
3. Cost of firmware upgrade and compatibility
As your site requires new hardware overtime, the same products might come with a newer firmware version. This can create a number of issues in that firmware versions often become incompatible after 2 or more revisions.
Also, disparate products that used to work harmoniously together might fail when one or both have their firmware upgraded. Unless your site is under an active SLA, your site faces several options:
- i. Purchase new hardware to replace the older one with incompatible firmware;
- ii. Run and maintain two systems in parallel taking valuable time off your resources.
- iii. Try and quick-fix issues as they arise, leading to an unmanageable system
In addition, access to the latest firmware upgrade lowers the risk of susceptibility to security breaches.
4. Cost of managing relationships between vendors
When it comes to issues with mines’ wireless networks, more than one party are often involved. The fact is that more often than not some finger pointing will take place between the network and applications vendor. The mine, stuck in the middle, will often have to waste time arbitrating towards, hopefully, a fast resolution of the issue.
An active SLA keeps the responsibility of the issue with the vendor, with the speed of resolution an active part of the SLA KPIs.
5. Cost of replacing your aging workforce
As skilled labor forces are aging and retiring, it is becoming increasingly difficult to attract experienced and competent replacements. The appropriate SLA will provide your site with the extension of the workforce you need, and actually replace some of the needs in this area.
To learn more about how 3D-P can help you support your site, contact us today.