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Challenges and opportunities: Utilising the cloud to unlock manufacturing process efficiencies

(Image credit: Image Credit: Melpomene / Shutterstock)

Today’s manufacturers face a stark choice: evolve their operations to achieve process efficiencies, or risk being left behind. The competitive global landscape poses challenges to manufacturers, but cloud technology presents the opportunity to unlock process efficiencies that drive competitive advantage.

During a recent industry event, I spoke to a number of manufacturers about how they are addressing the challenges they face in today’s global market. UK manufacturers are faced with making ever more complex products as quickly and efficiently as possible, all whilst maintaining stringent quality controls. And if they can’t, competition from around the world is ready and waiting to swoop in and fill the gap.

Today’s manufacturers also operate in a diverse, constantly shifting global market where anything from trade tariffs to tornadoes can hinder the supply chain – potentially catastrophic when deadlines are tight and client expectations are high. It is against this backdrop that manufacturers must face the challenge of achieving manufacturing process efficiencies that will help them gain competitive advantage. But how?

If you read the industry press, you may think that Industry 4.0 – along with AI, robotics and edge computing – is the silver bullet that will alleviate all of your manufacturing woes. But the truth is that the event delegates I spoke to are sceptical of the potential ROI that could come with these kind of massive transformational changes. ‘Big bang’ digital transitions can introduce risk, and often need time before they begin to deliver tangible ROI.

Throughout my discussions with manufacturers, I have explained my belief that utilising cloud technology can be the key to unlocking manufacturing process efficiencies for all firms, regardless of scale. By introducing cloud technology in a gradual, staged manner your firm can reduce risk and speed up ROI, all the while reaping the benefits of modern cloud computing.

In this article I will provide five ways that the effective use of cloud technology can help your firm to achieve manufacturing process efficiencies and drive competitive advantage.

Challenges and opportunities: Utilising the cloud

Today, manufacturers of all sizes and levels of operational complexity are utilising cloud technology in order to unlock manufacturing process efficiencies. Here are five reasons why the cloud can help your firm address its business challenges:

1. Scale quickly and easily to meet changing requirements. You don’t need all of your resources all of the time; all manufacturers will go through peaks and troughs in production demands. This will place peaks and troughs on the computing resources needed to support every element of the manufacturing cycle. Cloud technology is generally far better than local infrastructures at scaling resources quickly and easily, generally as part of an OPEX model without the need for significant CAPEX investment.

2. Introduce servitisation and deliver additional value. In an environment where global competition and diminishing margins are putting pressure on the bottom line, manufacturers need to find new ways to differentiate. Servitisation, where manufacturers offer a service wrap or outcome-based model over and above pure product delivery, is one way manufacturers can increase value through delivering end-to-end services to their clients. Integrated cloud-based solutions provide an opportunity to innovate and deliver new services through digitisation and data insights that add value over and above pure product sales.

3. Reduce downtime and maximise productivity. Cloud technology invariably supports business continuity solutions that offer recovery times far superior to those offered for local infrastructures. With uptime and availability so crucial to manufacturers seeking to maximise productivity and hit delivery deadlines, it makes sense to adopt cloud technology for the provisioning and management of backup and disaster recovery provisions.

4. Gain data that drives evidenced process improvements. The ability to capture, store, analyse and report on data is critical to making evidenced process improvements that drive efficiencies and increase ROI. Cloud technology makes it easier to integrate and work with data through a single dashboard, allowing you to introduce the right manufacturing process efficiencies faster than ever before.

5. Get started on your manufacturing automation journey. Robotics, the Internet of Things and extensive interconnectivity all power manufacturing automation, making them key drivers for cloud adoption throughout the industry. These latest advancements don’t have to be deployed using a ‘big bang’ approach; the gradual, structured introduction of transformative technologies will lay stable foundations for the future adoption of full-on Industry 4.0 across your firm.

Unlock manufacturing process efficiencies

Many of the manufacturers I speak to are facing ever increasing pressure to realise process efficiencies whilst minimising their cost bases and maintaining the highest quality standards. I believe that cloud technology holds the key to unlocking these process efficiencies. I hope that you find the information provided in this article useful when it comes to approaching your Industry 4.0 roadmap. If nothing else, you should be left with the confidence that Industry 4.0 isn’t just for huge multinational organisations but for all manufacturers operating today – including yours.

The application of cloud technologies, in collaboration with an experienced technology partner, will help manufacturers of all sizes achieve process efficiencies and deliver ROI within the shortest possible timeframe, all as part of their broader digital transformation journeys.

Jonathan Wright, Industry Director for Manufacturing, Six Degrees