Strategic shift to cloud technology key to Pact Group’s automation framework and growth trajectory

Pact Group, a dynamic and robust manufacturer of packaging with operations throughout Australia, New Zealand and Asia, is continuing its strategic investment in Microsoft cloud technologies as it prepares for continued growth and a drive towards integrated automated manufacturing.

The company has made almost 50 acquisitions since 2002 and its traditional on-premise model presented challenges for the standardisation of infrastructure platforms and applications when integrating these businesses into the parent company.

“Pact has aggressive growth plans coupled with a drive for efficiency and integrated automated manufacturing that requires significant scale and capability from our technology,” said Michael Ross, CIO, Pact Group. “We needed to have elasticity in the compute space and in the platform to support that growth.”

These demands have seen Pact make a deliberate and strategic shift to Microsoft cloud technology over the past several years. Most recently, Pact Group upgraded to the latest release of SAP with SQL 2014 and optimised the server architecture for hybrid cloud deployment. The move to SQL Server 2014 means that Pact Group now needs only 25 per cent of the storage capacity required to run the SAP system, which significantly reduces the cost of storage for the new Azure-based SAP environments. Savings in storage also cascades down to create savings in the cost of backup.

In addition, Pact Group migrated its development and quality assurance SAP environments from an existing on-premises datacentre to Microsoft Azure, and built a new, highly available production disaster recovery (DR) environment in Azure using SQL AlwaysOn technology.

“As the core enterprise platform for the business across sales, manufacturing, and finance, SAP is used around the clock,” said Ross. “Azure enables us to offset cost by scheduling shut-down of workloads that are not required on a 24×7 basis. If we need infrastructure for tactical deployments, we can respond quickly with near unlimited capacity while we are managing an acquisition; then, when completed, we can switch it off. We pay just for what we use.”

The hyper-scale of the Azure platform gives the company greater elasticity in resource, and easily allows for increased capacity for specific periods of time, to scale up or down to meet the demands of a growing and agile business.

One of the company’s cloud projects also included a transition to Office 365 and this investment has already paid significant dividends, according to Ross. “Office 365 is part our overall vision to create a flexible and collaborative working environment as we on board new businesses, and this has significant benefits for our workforce. We have rolled out the platform to more than 1,700 employees, who are now collaborating on Office 365 in ways we couldn’t have previously imagined.”

The next step in Pact’s cloud journey is to gather more data via machine learning and the Internet of Things sensors. Soon, the company plans to be capturing data from sensors which will need to be analysed to deliver insights, drive intelligence and improve products.

“Increasingly we’re focused on integrated automated manufacturing. This sees us integrating multiple data sources across our core platforms as well an ever increasing number of sensors and robots across our manufacturing lines. So we need to create an open network in order to consolidate these and when this occurs, analytics tools available in the cloud like Power BI will be extremely important”

With this growth into the cloud and a focus on machine learning and the Internet of Things, Pact Group will continue to leverage its existing investment in Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) to provide more granular control of information assets. This will be complemented by a Windows 10 deployment, which is expected to be completed by October 2016.

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