September 5, 2019
The extraordinary pace of business in the digital age means manufacturers must find new ways to maximize productivity and efficiency.
Armed with smartphones, modern consumers can find the products they want in the blink of an eye. As a result, they expect retailers to deliver those products with the same immediacy. In more competitive product categories, consumers demand the cheapest options possible. Given these restrictions, brands are either forced to keep pace or risk losing market share and relevance.
These shifting dynamics between consumers and producers have put tremendous pressure on manufacturers. Where have those manufacturers turned for help? The cloud.
Developing Data Demands
For modern manufacturers, data is the great equalizer. Cloud-based supply chains allow manufacturers to accommodate change quickly by collecting and storing enormous amounts of actionable data. The cloud can provide greater visibility into all business systems, giving large manufacturers real-time insights into the status of materials and meaningful metrics that allow for rapid process optimization.
Even small firms benefit from a data-driven approach. Although their production facilities might not achieve the high volumes of larger factories, universal manufacturing processes such as inventory management, production monitoring, and quality control are made more efficient through a steady stream of relevant, real-time data.
Historically, companies have relied on their own data centers to absorb and act on all that data. Creating these centers requires a huge investment of time and capital. But with a supply chain in the cloud, modern manufacturers can outsource data processing and serving needs to a cloud service provider.
The Cloud’s Role in Manufacturing Systems
Cloud-based collaboration solutions, including videoconferencing tools and productivity applications, enhance team engagement while allowing employees to work concurrently from different locations. Using data-driven approaches, companies can streamline workflows and pinpoint problems to take proactive preventative measures or adjust strategy.
The cloud is also useful for tracking production and monitoring product quality, using machine learning to eliminate the potential for human error. Likewise, compliance software eases the burden of meeting complex regulatory standards and reduces expenses by simplifying risk management.
Systems deployed in the cloud benefit from redundancies, backup capabilities, and disaster recovery options that on-premise solutions cannot match. In an environment that prioritizes reliability and consistency, the cloud eliminates the risk of downtime.
Migration Mistakes to Avoid
While many manufacturers have successfully transitioned to cloud-based systems, some have made critical mistakes that result in failed or time-consuming migrations. If you’re a manufacturing leader planning your own transition to the cloud, avoid the following common missteps:
1. Failing to evaluate the performance requirements of your applications.
Before you move supply chain apps to the cloud, assess your performance needs. The virtual servers that will host your supply chain systems must meet respective vendors’ minimum system requirements. Additionally, companies need to be aware of potential lag time. Applications that are accessed in the cloud might require faster internet speeds, and you’ll need a secondary internet line as a failover in case your primary line goes down.
2. Underestimating migration costs.
Companies tend to focus on the money they’ll save by migrating to the cloud, assuming they’ll no longer need IT workers to manage on-premise systems. To avoid overruns, it’s important to include the actual costs of the migration in your budget. The expense most often overlooked is the cost of moving data. This process could take weeks or even months to complete, and you might not have access to some critical data during the transition. Plan accordingly.
3. Relying on inexperienced staff.
Migrating to the cloud requires specific experience that many IT teams lack. If this is your team’s first migration, they could mistakenly transfer all the problems of your existing system to the cloud. Without the right expertise, a migration can also take much longer than necessary. Consider working with experienced cloud consultants who can guide your transition and help you overcome any obstacles along the way.
4. Failing to communicate.
To ensure adequate cross-functional engagement during a cloud transition, all departments and key stakeholders must understand the migration plan. When explaining how daily activities will be affected, consider the perspectives of your employees. An explanation that works for your sales team might not be as clear to your operations staff. To make a migration work, present the plan to all stakeholders in a way they can grasp.
A cloud migration doesn’t have to be painful. If you’re considering transitioning your on-premise systems to the cloud, contact service providers and ask for a free or low-cost evaluation. Good providers will be able to give you an accurate estimate of costs and a plan for an incremental migration that will minimize business disruption and establish confidence in the system.
Robin Hau is the founder and CEO of SimplyClouds, a provider of cloud services for businesses of any size that uses a self-service marketplace for ordering, provisioning, and management. Hau has more than 20 years of experience in building and providing technology products and services.