How Infrastructure-as-a-Service Is Changing The Manufacturing Space
By Tim Mullahy, General Manager at Liberty Center One
The industrial revolution completely changed manufacturing. Now, a similar change is being driven in the field - this time by the cloud.
Organizations in the manufacturing space are under constant pressure to be more efficient. To stay competitive, they need to be more accurate. Processes need to be faster, smoother, and simpler. Every decision needs to be backed by comprehensive information about an organization’s product, market, and employees.
The manufacturing space is now more competitive than it’s ever been, a trend driven as much by the development of new technology as by globalization. Over the past several years, one of the most noticeable ways it’s changed has involved the cloud. Think back to how a manufacturing floor might have looked back in the 70s or 80s.
Back then, it was relatively rare for even large enterprises to have much in the way of data analysis or monitoring tech. Supply chain tracking was done manually, with pen and paper. Harried supervisors and managers had to keep track of what was going on in their factory by hand, and rely entirely on word of mouth.
Even once computing technology started to make its way into the manufacturing space, there were still large-scale inefficiencies in many factories. These facilities were limited in operational scope and scale, with larger plants requiring extensive computing infrastructure to remain functional. As manufacturing became more reliant on IT capabilities, plant systems had to expand to make sure there was enough redundant capacity to avoid outage. An IT outage now meant assembly lines and factory floors would come to a halt.
Then the cloud happened.
Suddenly, everything could be deployed onto a single, globe-spanning network. Manufacturers could establish a cloud-based environment that gave them visibility into and control over their entire supply chain. No longer were executives and managers chained to a place-based systems to gain access to their data. Cloud computing allowed users to get their data anywhere at anytime over any device. Distributing workload in the cloud improved the availability of the systems by taking advantage of redundant hosts, storage and even facilities without the capital expenses of expanding computer infrastructure. Moreover, the raw processing power of cloud data platforms allowed manufacturers to gain deeper insights into their employees, logistics, clients, and customers.
Those insights are perhaps the most valuable thing about the cloud.
“Although technology is often viewed as the antidote to human imperfection, many machines used by some of the world’s largest producers are prone to the same inefficiencies as humans,” reads a post on the Merkur Engineering Blog. ”This ability to gather and analyze large swaths of data is critical to stamping out inefficiencies, maximizing production, improving quality, and reducing costs. For example, one smart factory reported a mere 15 defects per million parts, coupled with a 99% reliability rate! If companies wish to remain competitive in a rapidly shifting manufacturing landscape, it is important that they strive to achieve this level of efficiency, which can only be attained through the adoption of the data-driven mentality.”
In addition to a more data-driven approach, cloud infrastructure is also resulting in a number of benefits across the board. These include better supplier portals and collaboration platforms, better control over product lifecycles, better management of sales channels, and automation of everything from marketing to resource management. In short,
Manufacturers are under constant pressure to do more with less. To be more efficient, effective, and productive. To have data always available, anywhere. The cloud provides one of the best means by which they can do so, allowing companies to bring their knowledge and intelligence into every situation, whether it’s on the factory floor or the sales floor.
About the Author: Tim Mullahy is the General Manager at Liberty Center One, a new breed of data center located in Royal Oak, MI. At Liberty Center One, they understand that protecting their customers’ data and maintaining its availability is critically important.