Five stages for manufacturers to thrive in the cloud
By Microsoft UK Enterprise Team on 16/02/2017
Filed under Manufacturing
In the history of manufacturing, there have been three industrial revolutions. First, it was mechanisation of labour, then mass production. The third revolution involved computer systems and automated production. But now, the evolution of connected systems of intelligence has heralded a fourth revolution. These changes are affecting every industry at an unprecedented pace.
Manufacturing is facing several challenges and opportunities going into 2017:
- According to an EEF report, 74 percent of manufacturers believe that the fourth revolution will fundamentally change customer expectations. With fast turnaround times, customers have come to expect instant gratification. This has led to a rise in additive manufacturing.
- Systems of intelligence are becoming more common. Approximately 43 percent of UK companies adopting them in 2016. In the ‘heavy industries’ such as manufacturing this rose to 56 percent.
- UK manufacturing is at a two-year high. Yet, factory costs are rising. In 2017, manufacturers expect a challenging year, with energy and material costs remaining high.
Using the cloud, manufacturers can understand customers through data, connect your machinery through the internet of things and increase productivity, reducing costs.
1. Get cloud ready
By 2019, advanced manufacturing technologies will be worth more than $85 million globally. Manufacturers can achieve secure growth by updating their on-premises data and application platforms. It also allows them to make better informed decisions anytime, anywhere.
When scaling, it’s vital to enhance security. Cyber-security is becoming more important in manufacturing. In Germany, a cyber-attack caused a blast furnace malfunction resulting in ‘massive’ damage. Getting cloud ready (i.e. modernising your on-premises infrastructure) reduces the risk of such an attack.
2. Build hybrid capabilities
Once you’ve become cloud ready, it’s time to figure out how best to use it. Manufacturers can build a hybrid capability through public and private cloud storage. This provides the perfect blend of flexibility and control to benefit their company.
‘This is where we see hybrid cloud models working for us.’ says Warwick Hutton, CIO Australia of Coca-Cola Amatil. Using Azure, they created an effective hybrid model. They use the public cloud for standardised workloads, like email and office productivity applications. Where applications are niche, customised or require testing environments they use the private cloud.
3. Experiment and scale
By having an effective cloud infrastructure, a world of possibilities becomes available to you. Consumers now require instant gratification, which has a knock-on effect throughout the supply chain. Manufacturers need to keep up with this trend. Using the cloud, they can build and deploy applications allowing employees to work effectively on the go.
3M, wanted a better way to track assets in one of its business divisions. They created and deployed a tracking app, synced to the cloud that ran on multiple mobile devices in a single weekend. They created the app using Microsoft Azure Mobile Services, Microsoft Visual Studio and Xamarin.
4. Understand through data
When manufacturers achieve business growth with the cloud, there is an excess of data. But, if they are data rich and information poor they can stall growth. Data analytics can reveal operational glitches, improve customer relationships and employee productivity.
‘It wasn’t so long ago that you needed big computers, big budgets, and big brains to do big data,’ says Colin Masson, Microsoft Global Industry Director for Manufacturing and Distribution. These days with data analytics through the cloud, even the smallest manufacturer can benefit.
5. Embrace the Intelligence of Things
There will be 26 billion internet-connected things by 2020, according to analysts at Gartner. The Internet of Things has increased manufacturing efficiency and customer satisfaction while reducing product defects. Using the cloud, it can also improve resource utilisation, overcome language barriers and perform predictive maintenance. Connecting all these “things” creates systems of intelligence. Finding ways to leverage these systems opens up tremendous opportunities for advanced analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
The next step in your journey to the cloud
Even when you’ve gone through these five stages, your journey to the cloud isn’t over. Once established you should use the cloud as a springboard to empowering your business. There’s no final destination here. The intelligent cloud should be a tool for continuous improvement, not just a one-off benefit.
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