Manufacturers in the U.S. take great pride in what they do—for good reason! The U.S. manufacturing industry is the largest in the world, producing 18.2 percent of the world’s goods. And the U.S. manufacturing sector is predicted to increase faster than the general economy in the coming years.
Despite this positive outlook, our leadership position as the world’s top manufacturing nation is slipping. High operating costs and inefficient business practices are threatening companies that are unable to adapt. Luckily, new technology solutions are constantly emerging that help manufacturers overcome challenges, stay competitive, and drive growth. Perhaps the most outstanding transformations in the manufacturing industry are the result of cloud computing.
Cloud computing is transforming virtually every facet of modern manufacturing--from how companies operate to how they integrate into supply chains to how they design and fabricate products. Here are the 4 biggest ways cloud computing is driving growth in the manufacturing space:
1. Stabilizing IT costs
With constantly fluctuating material costs and other variable factors, IT budget is often the last thing manufacturers are concerned about. Yet, legacy IT systems where all of the infrastructure is housed on-premise rapidly become outdated and need to be replaced, resulting in unpredictable costs.
Technology refresh cycles can seem like a constant (expensive) process. IT components don’t last the same amount of time – so your servers might need to be refreshed one year, then the next year your storage could use an upgrade too, and then your network switching needs to be updated. Because of the price tag, you may even defer these upgrades, which negatively impacts the productivity and efficiency of your team.
One of the biggest positives when moving data and IT operations to the cloud is the greater predictability of monthly technology costs. Cloud computing reduces capital expenses into in-house IT, since infrastructure and storage is hosted off-site. Ultimately, your company only pays for the space and functionality that are required—and the cost predictability can help as you scale and grow.
2. Increasing productivity and business agility
According to a 2017 survey of manufacturers, the top benefits of cloud computing go beyond simply cost savings. 72 percent cited higher productivity, and 60 percent cited business agility as the most important ways cloud computing has changed their operations. These responses point to a focus on building strategic advantage rather than just saving money.
In a world where order production and fulfillment are dictated by customer demand, companies need to remain agile to keep up with the constant fluctuation. Cloud-based solutions integrate with the ERP and MRP software that helps keep manufacturing operations running smoothly. With tight integration between your critical software applications and the cloud, your company can gain complete visibility into the production process, allowing you to adapt quickly.
3. Supporting supply chain integration
Today’s growing global supply chains mean that shifts in sourcing, production, and sales avenues are incredibly complex.
It’s more necessary than ever for companies to take a complete view of their network of suppliers, producers, logistics, and distribution. Cloud computing is critical to successfully integrating these global supply chains. Manufacturers need to invest upfront in flexible technology solutions that can accommodate rapid change. With the right cloud solution, your company can easily measure, manage, and improve your supply chain integration.
4. Ensuring system security and reliability
Unexpected downtime on the production floor can cost thousands of dollars and result in lost productivity; the same goes for downtime in your IT environment.
Business continuity is a primary concern for any IT department. If a security breach or even a natural disaster were to wipe out your IT infrastructure today, how quickly could you recover your data and replicate your IT environment to get back up and running?
Cloud computing eliminates any concern over data backup and disaster recovery. Many cloud computing companies offer 24/7 network monitoring and fully redundant failover systems that ensure you can meet your RTO and get back on track as quickly as possible.
In today’s incredibly competetive manufacturing environment, businesses need every possible advantage. Agility, scalability, and reliability are all key factors in the future of manufacturing success. Cloud computing helps drive growth in the manufacturing industry by supporting these goals, helping manufacturers innovate, reduce costs, and increase their competitiveness.