Un-planted: Four Technologies that are Changing Manufacturing

Previously, we looked at how the world of manufacturing can utilise cloud computing to resolve complex, costly challenges while also driving innovative practices. Despite the key role that cloud plays in transforming the ways in which organisations design, build and deliver products to end clients, it is still ultimately an enabler; a method of providing computational resources.

 

Converging for success…

 

In order for manufacturers to realise cloud’s fullest potential, it must work in tandem with other technologies that each possess their own unique capabilities. Today, there are four essential application areas affecting seismic change in the sector: big data, automation, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and mobile.

 

Traditionally, these four tools would have functioned in silo; each acting independently with severely limited interoperability or cross-site interaction. However, with the advent of cloud computing, more CTOs are grasping the significant operational benefits to be gained when these applications are fully integrated, geographically connected and strategically planned as a single system (rather than as a set of unrelated components).

 

Bringing big data down to size…

 

Manufacturing executives are exploiting cloud-based analytics to achieve advances, both in terms of market understanding and insight into existing company-wide processes. Afforded with the ability to attain improvement on a micro and macro level, businesses can combine a better apprehension of current consumer demands and trends with more streamlined internal procedures (including predictive maintenance[1]). Inevitably, this will translate into more relevant products, created in the most efficient manner possible.

 

Automate to accumulate…

 

Armed with enhanced market acumen, as well as an awareness of where meaningful internal developments can be made, enterprises must look for the most proficient mode of implementing any changes. Configured in a cloud environment, automation offers manufacturers huge advantages right across the value chain, including:

 

  • Managing the entire ordering and delivery process
  • Provision of customer service and support
  • Planning, execution and tracking of marketing campaigns

 

ERP, easy as 1, 2, 3…

 

While cloud has allowed many industry players to capitalise on analytics and automation tools, it has also facilitated the superior application of ERP systems. In contrast with often cumbersome and expensive to maintain on-premise deployments, hosted ERP platforms are now enabling organisational collaboration on a global scale. Consequently, critical information relating to materials, suppliers and logistics are accessible to those who need to see it, regardless of their physical whereabouts. The end product of this is improved, quicker decision-making.

 

Decision-in-a-device…

 

Though cloud can rightly take a large chunk of the credit for enhancing overall performance of ERP software, it must share this crown with mobility technologies. With cloud supporting plant and system interconnectivity, mobile devices are now letting senior managers monitor and approve key activities, in addition to securely accessing reports from any operational data source. Crucially, mobile removes the locational restrictions one would have encountered as little as three or four years ago.

 

Success factors…

 

IIJ’s advice to any CTO currently plotting their company’s IT strategy is simple. Firstly, from our extensive experience in the sector, we urge manufacturers to view cloud and the technologies outlined in this piece as a total, unified system. If these elements are treated in isolation then the obvious synergies which exist between them will be lost. Lastly, management should carefully consider their firm’s entire stack (connectivity, infrastructure. security, etc.) to ensure each layer is fit to realise the best possible output of these powerful applications.

[1] http://cerasis.com/2015/01/13/manufacturing-technology/

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About Colin J. O'Sullivan

Colin O’Sullivan is a senior business and partner development manager, currently working with leading UK managed services provider, Wavex Technology. Colin has spent a decade in the technology industry, helping customers across the globe to drive organisational improvement through the adoption of world class products and services.

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