Top Benefits to Manufacturing in the Cloud
Cloud computing creates new opportunities for manufacturers to improve their efficiency, security, and profitability. The “cloud” refers to an ever-expanding suite of business-oriented services that are available through the internet from IT/data center companies that store, manage, and protect data. This is often easier and more cost-effective than maintaining on-premises technologies, especially older legacy systems. “Cloud users can access their data, systems, and applications from any device or location, as long as they have an internet connection,” states Greg Lascala, president of Lascala IT.
An increasing number of manufacturers are migrating toward cloud technologies to reduce costs and stay competitive.
The global cloud manufacturing market is projected to grow to a value of $121 billion by 2026—a growth rate of almost 16% per year.
“Cloud computing is transforming virtually every facet of modern manufacturing—from how companies operate, to how they integrate into supply chains, to how they design and fabricate products,” says Erik Murphy, virtual chief information officer of strategic accounts for SymQuest.
The following are nine ways cloud computing is impacting the manufacturing world:
- Less expensive. In-house legacy IT systems are often outdated and require expensive repairs and upgrades, resulting in downtime and extra work for IT personnel. This is often made more challenging by the use of different IT systems at different locations. With the cloud, there is no need to invest in expensive, in-house IT infrastructure up front—services and equipment can be upgraded through the cloud for a monthly fee, allowing a company to scale-up or scale-down production with ease.
- On-demand delivery. On-demand delivery of products requires a comprehensive understanding of all the factors that impact that demand. Businesses can create accurate forecasts over any time period with cloud-based software. “These cloud-generated forecasts can help determine both demand and capacity planning,” states tech writer Hind Naser.
- Data management. With Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, businesses can efficiently store and manage data securely in the cloud, ranging from machine performance to demand forecasts, logistics, inventory, intellectual property, and supply chain performance. Real-time traceability and other data-driven metrics result in more informed decision-making, in less time.
- Supply chain management. With trade wars and COVID-19, it has never been more important for manufacturers to have a fully transparent view of their supply chain operations. Tracking and traceability tools in the cloud streamline delivery of parts and materials. With RFID tracking, the entire journey of a part or product can be monitored in real time, which can reveal troublesome bottlenecks.
- System security and reliability. Business continuity is a top concern for any manufacturer—are the systems in place to quickly recover from a security breach or natural disaster? From employee records to sensitive intellectual property and company finances, cloud systems provide redundancy and their own top-level security measures, including encryptions and other deterrents.
- Simplified compliance efforts. Data systems in the cloud enable companies to quickly produce complete device history records, validation/verification reports, and other data required by regulatory agencies to ensure compliance when products are submitted for approval.
- Improved quality. Quality is enhanced throughout the production process when inspection systems are managed through the cloud, reducing the frequency of defective parts, and increasing throughput. “Manufacturing cycle times are boosted via real-time visibility, supply chain integration, and various other factors made possible through cloud-based systems,” says Lascala. This also includes predictive maintenance using IoT sensor technologies.
- Enhanced product development. The cloud makes it easy to share the product design process with all desired stakeholders. For example, with virtual reality and augmented reality, team members in different locations can study prototypes together in real time and make faster decisions. “The manufacturing team can alert the design team earlier in the planning phase if there are potential design flaws and risks to be mitigated,” says Lynn Allen on Engineersrule.com. These collaborative tools also help the marketing team fully understand the process and product.
- Enhanced customer experience. Meeting or exceeding customer expectations—especially the ability to quickly personalize product lines in a short amount of time—is critical for profitability and business growth. Cloud programs analyze customer data to determine customer demographics and upcoming trends, giving companies an edge over their competitors and building brand awareness, often in real time.
In a rapidly evolving global economy, where changing customer demands impact product design, order production, and distribution, manufacturers must be agile to respond to the changing trends in their markets. “Cloud-based solutions integrate with enterprise resource planning and material requirements planning software, which helps keep all aspects manufacturing operations running smoothly,” says Murphy. This includes improving agility, scalability, and reliability.
“The cloud essentially allows manufacturing firms, regardless of size, to take advantage of various forms of production systems, including 3D printing, high-performance computing, and the Internet of Things,” adds Lascala. “Even the smallest manufacturing firms are now able to innovate, minimize costs, and increase their competitiveness as they have access to the latest and greatest to transform virtually every aspect of the manufacturing process.”
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