industrial manufacturing workforce trends

Six ways industry clouds keep the manufacturing outlook sunny

If your company is not among the 75% of manufacturers projected to be using industry clouds as soon as 2020, there is just one question you need to ask yourself: “Why in the world are we letting ourselves fall behind?” The use of vertical industry clouds is exploding as a trend, given the ability to cut costs, speed development and operations, keep manufacturers competitive…and that’s just the start of a much brighter cloud-based outlook for manufacturers.

Globally, manufacturers are on track to spend more than $5 billion on cloud computing platforms in 2019. So what exactly are they getting for their money?

How industry clouds empower manufacturers

As manufacturing becomes more technically challenging, geographically dispersed, data-dependent and constantly exposed to competitive disruption, industry-specific, cloud-based solutions are already helping manufacturers grow via:

1. Integration
Manufacturing has a long heritage of on-premise IT infrastructure. The wealth of vertical cloud solutions is more than capable of integrating with legacy, on-premise systems to leverage those considerable investments while opening up a new world of possibilities in a hybrid IT scenario. Those include easier integration of far-flung locations for team collaboration, better alignment of different technology platforms, and simplified, unified access to multiple data sources.

2. Agility and speed
The inherent flexibility of cloud capabilities allows manufacturers to quickly adjust to changing needs and emergent opportunities, while accelerating operations (as with the above mentioned integration of platforms, combining, coordinating and optimizing the related input of technologies such as IoT, cognitive computing and robotics).

3. Insight
The unprecedented ability to aggregate, integrate and analyze data, even in real time, is one of the most important deliverables of the cloud. Take the example of assessing OEE (overall equipment effectiveness). Cloud-based systems, or hybrid systems leveraging the cloud, can track and analyze the health and performance of every single machine on shop floors throughout a widely distributed organization. This can markedly improve efficiencies and even enable preventive maintenance, via predictive analytics.

4. Accountability
Whereas horizontal cloud solutions are tailored to the general needs of functions (sales, accounting, etc.), vertical clouds are tailored to the operational, regulatory and even competitive specifics of a particular industry. This enables manufacturers to, for instance, minutely track the progress of parts or ingredients through a supply chain, allowing the rapid tracing, and correcting and removal of defects or contamination, potentially preventing or minimizing recalls.

5. Competitive advantage
In-depth, individualized insights and analytics delivered by vertical clouds can also produce competitive advantage, especially when applied to the all-important realm of customer satisfaction.

Take the concept of “perfect order performance.” This ultra-high standard requires data-optimized workflows and tracking (particularly when offering build-to-order options), to ensure accuracy of specifications as well as on-time, damage-free product delivery.

6. Monetization of data
In the most simplified sense, all of the above can be looked at as monetizing data, as the benefits of cloud-based operations ultimately either increase revenue or reduce costs.

But all that data being captured can also be looked at as a product in itself, saleable to other industries. Are you a data-driven home security manufacturer? Non-competitive industries, such as insurance, might be eager to buy your data.

If your company is, indeed, among that 25% of manufacturers not yet planning to adopt cloud-enabled operation, all of the above may conjure up an impossibly complex period of transition.

Industry experts, however, counsel that even late-to-the-party manufacturers can start enjoying the benefits of the cloud by taking a staged approach. As one consultant put it, “Your integration strategy should favor suppliers whose hardware, software, and services can be acquired incrementally, with minimal disruption to existing operations.”

In other words, look for partners who will help you keep one foot on solid ground, while also lifting you into the clouds, so you can clearly see what the future holds for your industry.

Industry Week: Top 10 Predictions for Global Manufacturing 2018
Quality Mag: Hybrid Industrial Cloud Adoption by Manufacturers to Double by 2023
RiverPoint: 5 Ways Organizations Can Monetize Data
MNet: 10 Ways Cloud Computing Will Drive Industry Growth