If there’s anything 2021 has taught us, it’s that supply chain disruptions can be catastrophic for the manufacturing process. Having a contingency plan for delivery delays and unexpected shortages can make or break a business.
Discussions of production strategy in today’s volatile market always come back to cloud-based manufacturing. But what exactly is “the cloud”?
In a nutshell, the cloud refers to a remote server network. These servers are used in cloud computing, or virtualization of services and data. Rather than performing all tasks on a single office PC, operations and data are moved to off-site servers (usually maintained by a third party). With the right hardware, software, and set-up expertise, cloud computing in the manufacturing industry can increase production exponentially.
Why is moving production to the cloud important for manufacturing?
The shift from cloud computing to cloud manufacturing has been underway since CAD software arrived on the scene. In the early days of smart manufacturing, CAD was used to quickly develop a prototype. The prototype could then be 3D-printed as a proof of concept. The CAD software and the designer could be located on opposite sides of the world, as long as the owner of the 3D printer could somehow receive their STL files. A global approach to manufacturing was beginning to take shape.
In the present day, scaled-up 3D printing is used as an independent, automatic production process, and CAD designs from the cloud are appearing on the factory floor in a fraction of the time that the prototype-to-production pipeline used to take. Cloud-based enterprise software is used to power everything from the automotive industry to cake decorating businesses. Any manufacturer that can benefit from increased data storage capacity and greater compute power is investing in cloud computing.
The utility of cloud computing can be divided into two main areas: product life cycle analysis and auxiliary personnel tasks. For the former, data from each stage of the production process can be analyzed in the cloud to deliver novel insights to team managers. This cloud-based manufacturing ERP software allows users to visualize all the components of production and precisely how the materials, workers, equipment, and end users interact.
In the area of auxiliary personnel management, managers are automating personnel tasks through the use of cloud-based HR and payroll software. Cloud-based office productivity software is cutting through administrative red tape. Between automating routine tasks, deriving meaning from data, and managing personnel, cloud computing in the manufacturing industry may be one of the most disruptive technologies in the field.
Why should you consider moving your production to the cloud?
Cloud-based software can be used to integrate labour-saving technology like 3D printing and robotics into your production process. This can be accomplished with a two-pronged approach: analyzing production data to get a clear view of your product life cycle, and using this information to identify inefficiencies and begin to automate production processes.
Paring down your systems to the bare essentials with cloud based ERP software and embracing automation can have a drastic impact on your bottom line. Some cloud-based management software is algorithmic and can be applied to an existing in-house network. However, advances in artificial intelligence are opening new pathways for automation that require higher computing power. Manufacturers who have already made the shift to cloud computing will remain competitive in a market driven by AI solutions for production processes.
Early adopters of cloud computing in manufacturing, like Ford, are seeing massive reductions in production cost and major gains in speed. Ford reports a reduction in engine production time from four months to four days with integration of cloud-based software for 3D printing. They also note a significant decrease in manufacturing cost.
Automation is far from the only benefit that cloud-based manufacturing can bring to your business. Data storage and visualization improves quality control practices. Converting your raw data into a narrative is not just a way to start automating and trim down the manufacturing process. Your quality assurance department should make it a constant practice to develop a global view of the kinks in your workflow and identify them before they become a major problem.
The future of manufacturing using the cloud
Cloud computing in the manufacturing sector enables seamless integration of innovative technology like artificial intelligence into an existing production workflow. In the near future, AI, automation, and the internet of things will likely progress to the point where cloud computing infrastructure is a requirement for manufacturers in a competitive market. Lightning-speed production will be coupled with the capacity to instantly accommodate shifts in demand and disruptions in the supply chain.
Moving manufacturing to the cloud can mean utilizing off-site servers, but it can also mean setting up a data centre of your own. A mixture of in-house data centres for critical operations and cloud-based booking software and data analysis may be the perfect IT infrastructure for your business.
Andreesen Horowitz predicts that cloud computing will be driven partly by the shift from workflow management to dataflow automation. Cloud-based ERT software is not just analyzing data dumps and providing greater insight into the production pipeline; it’s plugging directly into the factory floor to process real-time data.
Vital take-aways for manufacturing and the cloud
Cloud computing in the manufacturing sector is experiencing unprecedented growth. This growth will likely continue into the future at an accelerated rate. To stay competitive with early adopters, manufacturers are making the switch to cloud-based software.
That’s not to say that full adoption should be your immediate focus. Cloud computing manufacturing software is one of many tools for improving your IT infrastructure. Smaller manufacturers might start with cloud-based HR and payroll software but keep in-house data storage. Others can opt for a more aggressive cloud migration strategy coupled with the early stages of full cloud adoption.
Hypertec designs unbeatable IT infrastructure for businesses looking for competitive technology solutions in a fluctuating market. We’ve been doing this since the 80s, and we’ve seen cloud computing become a market disruptor in the past few years. Use our IT know-how to bring your factory’s long tradition of manufacturing excellence into the future—with the level of cloud computing that best fits your values and market strategy.