Manufacturers are always looking for ways to produce their goods faster, better, and more cost-effectively. So, it’s no surprise that many look to cloud computing as a way to achieve these goals. Certainly, cloud-based software offers many advantages, but for forward-looking manufacturers, the cloud supports changes that go beyond simply cutting costs. The cloud can help people and organizations fundamentally change the way they work.
Cloud computing enables and facilitates four key functions essential to success in today’s business environment:
Even at massive multinational companies, systems and processes still come down to the human element. A surprisingly small number of people are responsible for actually making things happen, for enabling major initiatives and keeping them going.
If you’re one of this small group of enablers, the simplicity of cloud-based systems gives you the ability to affect all the work and the people involved with it from one place. Software as a Service (SaaS) is user friendly, so you don’t spend all your time working with software but can instead concentrate on your job.
Mobility is the lynchpin of cloud computing. The ability to work on any device from any location—whether it’s the shop floor or a plant halfway across the world—without having to get on a plane or connect to a remote database through a virtual private network is powerful. Without the kind of mobility cloud-based systems provide, it’s incredibly difficult for a manufacturer to be truly world class.
For a business to stand apart, its people need free, unfettered access to data and systems. However, this access goes beyond storing data in one place. People must be able to work with that data in a centralized location so that processing occurs more quickly and users get the answers they need fast. Without a central, consolidated view into a plant’s or organization’s data, searching for information is time-consuming. If people spend all their time hunting for information and solutions to problems, they have no time to drive improvement, and the business will progress much more slowly.
To complicate matters further, many manufacturers don’t just store data in silos, but processes also run in silos. The cloud provides consolidation of views and analytics. It becomes the de facto repository for all aspects of all processes, even if that repository is only the recipient rather than the source of the company’s data assets. With the standardization SaaS offers, tasks like audits that used to take a day now take minutes, saving the organization time and money.
So, how does a manufacturer move its people beyond the mindset, “This is how we’ve always done it, so why change?” Standardization is fundamental to driving this shift in thinking, and the cloud’s greatest power may be that it facilitates standardization.
When data is disconnected and stored in many different locations, it’s difficult to drive improvement initiatives forward. But when data is centralized, it quickly becomes apparent where variances in processes, procedures, and outcomes exist between plants, divisions, and locations. With data centralized in a SaaS solution, more people can collaborate on process and product in real time, leading to the development of best practices. Through collaboration, more people (and the plants they work in) can benefit from these best practices, and those benefits become clear quickly.
Free, unfettered access and a system simple enough that people will want to use it: That’s the power of simplicity, mobility, access, and alignment in the cloud.
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