Moving to the Cloud: The Future of Manufacturing

“If you want something you’ve never had. You must be willing to do something you’ve never done.” What Thomas Jefferson said around 300 years ago seems to be perfectly applicable to any of today’s businesses. Do you want to prosper and take advantage over your competitors? Go right ahead, then! Get out of your comfort zone! Well, that’s easier said than done, Mr. Jefferson. 

There are industries that value their legacy (pun intended) more than others. Their comfort zone is limited to the decades of tradition. Manufacturing is one of these industries. Manufacturers still rely on people more than on the machines. However, the Covid-19 pandemic with its social distancing and remote work has revealed the importance of embracing machine-to-machine technology. Cloud computing turned out to be the best – and obvious- solution in facilitating agility and digitalization at factories.

As completely natural as your desire to leave everything the way it is may be, traditional systems are ill-equipped to meet the requirements of today’s market. So, if you’ve been waiting for a sign to make a shift in your mindset and technology, this is it. On-premise platforms cannot keep up, with the growing complexity of modern manufacturing, constantly shifting customer demands, fast access to business and operations data. That is to say, with everything cloud technology can provide. 

Delivering real-time data

Managing processes and making decisions on the basis of last month’s performance will never be adequately effective. Meanwhile, a current and complete view of the information from across your organization will improve your decision making. For example, real-time visibility of machine output and performance can help to improve asset management and avoid downtime, and the visibility of stock helps to set relevant tasks that lead to optimal production rate.

Operating with a single and real-time source of truth, you’ll finally be able to keep pace with all the processes, avoid delayed syncing up of the needed data and catch the “manufacturing moment.” Speed and reliability in moving data, ensured by cloud providers, is key because manufacturers need to collect data from geographically scattered IoT (Internet of Things) devices so that it can be analyzed. 

This information gives insight into optimizing operations, which aims to help reduce costs and increase profit. 

Reducing costs on IT… and beyond that

A cloud-based infrastructure is definitely more agile than an on-premise one. Cloud technology allows you to scale up or down according to the needs of your business. In other words, you can use the resources you need right when you need them. In contrast to in-house IT solutions, with the cloud your IT spendings are predictable – you pay only for the space and functionality you use. Meanwhile, an in-house infrastructure – especially, a legacy one – may require significant infusions the moment when you least expect it. The necessity to upgrade your system will come up on a regular basis because its components become outdated not at the same time. Postponing these upgrades may seem like an option, but it isn’t really, as the malfunction of the system will affect your team’s efficiency in a negative way.

Aside from eliminating the expenditures on the on-premise software, cloud-based applications cut down on production and operation costs by making manufacturing cycles more efficient.

In addition, it’s cloud service providers who are responsible for managing the systems and preventing downtime. And this is a matter of vital importance for manufacturers, since system downtime costs output and, therefore, money. 

Security

Moving to the cloud and storing production data off-premises might not be an easy decision to make. Security will no longer be on you but on your cloud service provider. However, what if instead of being terrified of this idea, you ask yourself how fast you could recover your data and replicate your IT environment if a security breach or a natural disaster happened.

Most cloud providers invest massively to ensure their infrastructure is safe and resilient to any attacks in the first place. Yet, if something goes wrong, they can quickly detect flaws due to 24/7 network monitoring and ensure the disaster recovery will take as little time as possible to get your systems back to work. Moreover, storing your data in the cloud, you can be sure that it’s backed up and won’t be gone forever after a data breach, or equipment failure.

Improving the processes with cloud-based ERP

For sure, ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) is an indispensable solution if you want to automate your organization’s workflow. Although an ERP system can be deployed and accessed either on-premises or in the cloud, the benefits of the former over the latter are noteworthy.

  • Dealing with on-premises ERP systems is more costly and time-consuming than with ones which are already set up on the cloud.
  • Cloud-based ERP software is updated automatically with the latest updates and security patches
  • When using a cloud ERP system, you don’t have to worry about integration with your other systems. It’s your service provider, who delivers consistent experience to users by making sure that the integration process is done well.
  • With an on-premises ERP system, employees will need extensive training and technical support, while with cloud-based solutions none of these will be relevant. Your service provider will take over the responsibility for managing and fixing technical aspects.

Optimizing the supply chain

For all the parties involved in the creation and sale of the product to work effectively toward the same goal, integration into a single system is a must. Today, when most supply chains are global, sharing data with all the stakeholders can become a real bottleneck. Fortunately, the lack of connectivity between separate organizations that make up a supply chain can be overcome by technology. With cloud-based software, employees are able to seamlessly exchange information throughout a product’s life cycle. Vital information doesn’t get lost as it moves between teams, departments, and job locations, since it’s centralized, integrated with different platforms, and can be easily accessed by all the stakeholders. 

It’s no exaggeration to say that moving to the cloud is the first step for creating the factory of the future. Because of cloud computing, other tools – such as Artificial Intelligence, automation – are becoming available for the manufacturing sector. Thus, no matter how tempting it might be to stay in your shell and resist the changes just ‘a little bit’ longer, please, keep in mind that the world has changed, and so should your business.

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