The rise of cloud technology is one of the driving factors behind the fourth industrial revolution, where the relationships among computers, people, and data are driving radical change in the manufacturing sector. Yet despite these developments, manufacturing has been lagging when it comes to adopting modern technology, with expenditures accounting for an average of only 1.95% of revenue, way behind the average 3.28% across all industries.
While that doesn’t necessarily mean that manufacturing firms should be spending more on IT, it does indicate that the sector has been slow to innovate. This is partly due to the high costs of upgrading deeply specialized equipment needed to run smart factories. The cloud, however, is transforming the sector by giving manufacturers innovative IT solutions that fall well within their means.
Here are five ways how:
#1. More seamless workflows
Traditionally, manufacturing firms have long had a problem with information silos caused by the disconnect between what’s happening in the back office and what’s happening on the factory floor. With different teams doing different things on different applications, departments end up being unable to effectively share data.
The cloud brings everything together under a centrally managed and universally accessible infrastructure where data doesn’t have to be manually entered multiple times in different apps. Add tracking and traceability into the mix, and you have access to real-time data that boosts quality and efficiency.
#2. Accelerated cycle times
The more back and forth between different departments, the longer cycle times will be. All too often, teams on the factory floor find themselves unable to work because of delays in getting a new project signed off. At the same time, the lack of consistent, data-driven insights makes it much harder to determine how cycle times can be improved.
Cloud technologies bring all data together, whether it’s collected from sensors on the factory floor or systems in the back office. With a centralized and shared database, there’s more opportunity to leverage powerful insights and automate routine processes.
#3. Automated compliance
Manufacturers face a unique set of challenges when it comes to regulatory compliance, such as meeting the demands of the Current Good Manufacturing Process (CGMP) and the ISO 13485 and 9001 standards. For example, regulations demand that manufacturers maintain a complete record of their batches, lots, and unit levels.
Cloud-based solutions tailored for use in manufacturing often feature Compliance-as-a-Service to make it easier for administrators to keep track of their assets and production lines. With cloud-based compliance applications, manufacturers can quickly produce records when asked and remove the costly burden of having to manually go through catalogs and compile reports.
#4. Better supplier management
For rapidly growing manufacturing firms, it doesn’t take long before the challenges of scale start getting in the way of growth. When you have multiple production lines to manage, it gets exponentially harder to maintain visibility into your supply chains. And when manufacturers lose sight of their suppliers, there’s an increased risk of data breach, compliance failure, or various other incidents that can have a detrimental effect on your business.
Since the cloud brings everything together under a single, cohesive infrastructure, it’s easier for administrators to keep track of their supply chains, monitor quality levels, and trace supplies across networks of practically any size and complexity.
#5. Reduced operational costs
When you’ve invested so much in specialized hardware, worker training, and brand building, the last thing you want is to get a negative return on investment (ROI). Neither do you want to be regularly replacing expensive equipment.
Cloud computing reduces operational costs and capital expenses by reducing your reliance on computing hardware. Instead, computing workloads and data storage are handled in off-site data centers where resources are paid for on demand. A centralized management solution also helps enable predictive maintenance for hardware on the factory floor, thus helping you handle hardware-related costs.
Netcom Solutions offers expertly managed and monitored technology to manufacturing firms seeking to reduce costs and improve performance. Call us today to learn more.