It’s here. The fourth industrial revolution. And it has sparked by a wave of automation and collaboration in manufacturing technologies. It has infused the digital and physical world that helps create the smart factory of the future.
Cloud computing is fast emerging as the way forward for the manufacturing sector as it enables innovation and growth. “Manufacturers are in the midst of a digital transformation, in which 3rd platform technologies are absolutely essential to the way they do business and in the products and services they provide to their customers. Consequently, a strategic approach to adopting cloud is absolutely essential,” notes Kimberly Knickle, IDC’s Manufacturing Insights research director.
The most significant benefits of cloud such as faster TAT, swifter time to market, global reach, elasticity, and scalability can help manufacturers stay ahead of the curve. Manufacturers are largely leveraging the cloud to collaboration, mobility, and analytics to further improve their innovation potential.
The Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO survey that has about 3,400 respondents across 82 countries representing over US$200bn of IT budget spend, establishes that the top reasons for enterprises, especially from the manufacturing sector, to invest in the cloud are to improve availability and resiliency, improve agility and responsiveness, simplified management, accelerate product development/innovation.
In fact, the public cloud is most popular in the Asia/Pacific, a region which many manufacturers are prioritizing, says IDC. The main benefit of the public cloud, IDC suggests, is it allows the remotest of manufacturing facilities to enjoy modern IT, communications, and collaboration without the need for a large onsite IT team or on-premises infrastructure.
Cloud Gains Traction
Manufacturers are using the cloud as an effective and elastic solution to store, process and archive customer data to efficiently analyze key information and derive actionable insights, without having to invest in resources to manage and maintain it all in the house.
It allows them to capture and apply business intelligence through the use of analytics, big data, and rules engines. Cloud platforms have come of age to enable the core business models of manufacturers that rely on to innovate build-to-order, configure-to-order, and engineer-to-order strategies. Such manufacturers are using clouds to capture and process knowledge with mobility support for analytics, BI and rules engine reporting, and more.
Cloud-based ERP solutions cohesively integrate core manufacturing functions and add the speed and flexibility to the industry-specific tasks. Critical functions of the manufacturing processes, such as materials requirements planning (MRP), process manufacturing system, purchase order and inventory management systems, shop floor management and supply chain management are increasingly finding a base with the cloud.
Increased cloud adoption in the manufacturing sector is fueling the new product development and resulting in significant improvement in time-to-market. It is increasingly speeding up the development lifecycle by enabling smooth and agile supply chain in a highly collaborative environment.
The manufacturing companies are often spread across geographic boundaries. They deal with a diverse range of suppliers working in both well-entrenched and emerging markets. Cloud promises to take away much of the complexity related to widely extended global supply chain, collaboration, and communication with external contractors, suppliers, business partners, and distribution channels.
Cloud Fuels Industry 4.0 – IoT Gains the Most
Internet of Things is rapidly emerging as the core component of the smarter manufacturing trend heralded by Industry 4.0. Manufacturing companies have enhanced their operational technologies with sensors, machine to machine automation and software controlled devices. The amalgam of Big Data, IoT, and M2M optimization will certainly bring greater opportunities. Cloud creates a fertile grounds for leveraging the IoT platform.
While IoT offers multifarious benefits, it comes to party when combined with cloud computing. When cloud computing and IoT are welded together, they enable newer avenues to monitor services and process sensory data streams more powerfully. For instance, cloud computing can store the terabytes of sensory data that can be leveraged for smart monitoring, processing and enabling other smart devices on the shop floor. The gargantuan scale of capacity and the resource flexibility that cloud offers makes IoT closer to practical reach.
Cloud in Manufacturing: To Each its Own
Evidently, manufacturing companies are leveraging cloud differently. For example, the automotive sector is beginning to embrace cloud-delivered telematics. Cloud-based dealer hubs are fast coming up among the automotive OEMs to seamlessly collaborate with dealers to share product and inventory information, demand generation and sales tools. Cloud, in fact, enables the top scale distributors to expand across geographies with minimal capital expenditure.
Cloud is helping rapid design and prototyping. Conventional manufacturing design has been driven by a painful iterative process—design, test, fail, redesign, test, fail, repeat. Cloud-based design and its cousin, 3D printing, are fast enabling manufacturers to shorten or even bypass this painful process.
Cloud technology is enabling the new-age ‘intelligent enterprise' that leverages the sophisticated remote systems monitoring, asset management, and engineering support to advance its plant-floor security, connectivity, performance and ease of integration. Obviously, cloud computing is helping the manufacturing companies to retract significant cost and complexities out of their manufacturing operations by enabling seamless monitoring and management of mission-critical applications.
Customer electronics sector, on the other hand, is leveraging the cloud to process and analyze consumer's purchasing and behavior patterns to develop actionable insights. A whole gamut of manufacturing organizations is also using the cloud for advanced analytics, designing and testing.
Moreover, agriculture-based enterprises are collaborating on a cloud with relevant NGOs and other organizations to share agri- and farmer-related information across developing countries to help nurture and enhance farm productivity and yield.
Obviously, cloud computing, with its ability to provide a scalable and elastic way to support business operations from remote locations and unprecedented data compute and storage capabilities, forms the very foundation of Industry 4.0. The industry, however, now needs a proven cloud ecosystem integrator to actually establish an industry-specific cloud platform to help unleash the latent potential of the manufacturing clouds and boost the enterprise's flight to more success.