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Manufacturing Cloud

Manufacturing Cloud
October 11, 2021

You must have often heard about the seemingly magical capabilities of the cloud. Despite this, as a business leader, you might be either skeptical or unfamiliar with what cloud adoption means for your organization’s setup. Also, being comfortable with your enterprise's current IT microcosm might position cloud adoption as a challenge for your business's future growth. Or perhaps you, like several other business leaders, are struggling with financial constraints that make it seem impossible to make the necessary digital investments.

Considering your apprehensions about the cloud, let me begin with the basics by simplifying cloud systems for you. Cloud is the new consumption-based intelligent data center, minus everything that was unsustainable about its traditional counterpart.  In simpler words, cloud adoption mitigates heavy CAPEX and OPEX ownership, unintelligent, non-scalable, and rapid technical debt, expensive and excessive licensing, pricey contracts, poor real-world business continuity, and most importantly, an extremely siloed setup that makes it difficult for an enterprise to be truly connected and collaborate.

The cloud imperative for manufacturing industries

While the above-stated problem statements hold true for all industries regardless of their scale, we’d like to deep-dive into manufacturing industries, owing to their significance.

A manufacturing industry operates in one of the most competitive markets regardless of its product type and represents a complex blend of seemingly disparate processes. These processes must synchronize for the end-product to be available with defined quality and functional specifications in the least possible time for meeting the dynamic market demands. To further contribute to this complexity, most of these processes utilize manufacturing systems and assets that are traditionally capital intensive, heavily siloed, and require ongoing human intervention. The result - extended process times, localized defect management, and significant monetary losses.

The outbreak of COVID-19, probably for the first time in the 21st century, posed an existential threat to traditional manufacturing industries with a linear operational flow. Thus, it is now imperative for manufacturing companies to adopt a more resilient and agile solution for streamlining their operations. Let us discover is how cloud systems can serve their purpose: 

Designing and prototyping

Manufacturing begins with a keystone process- designing and prototyping the envisioned product. The significance of which to the overall commercial success of the new product cannot be overstated. While most design processes in manufacturing companies have long been computerized and moved away from clay modeling, as an example in the automotive industry, the two existing problem statements are:

  1. The design ecosystem in itself is mostly siloed to the offices or locations of the design effort
  2. The physical prototyping, after the design, is time-consuming, limited, and presents a minimal possibility of updating in real-time

Enter cloud. With native AI and ML capabilities and a move away from siloes, it is now possible for manufacturing companies to keep IP secure, design, and prototype faster with unlimited scale, using digital twins. This new capability of significantly reducing the designing and prototyping time means a faster time-to-market for that key product launch and the ability for your ROI to encash faster.

Procurement

Once the production design is finalized and the planning begins for manufacturing the product, a fundamental problem statement arises: which vendors and supply chains should you utilize to source parts?

Enter cloud. Using cloud-native big data with strong AI/ML capabilities ingrained, you can go beyond the capabilities of traditional on-premise systems and automate your procurement processes. This can reduce spend through sourcing the right parts while identifying and mitigating supply chain risks at an early stage.

Manufacturing

The white elephant in the room, yet the most critical process of your manufacturing enterprise, product manufacturing, is crucial to the organization’s success. The problem statement in this stage is reducing defects and minimizing CAPEX losses that require current defect control to be managed by a reactive and OPEX-heavy human intervention.

Enter cloud. Driving production with AI-driven maintenance can reduce defects with intelligent quality control. The cloud systems learn and warn you well ahead of an impending defect so that you can correct it proactively and reduce costs.

Sales and marketing

Having a fully manufactured quality product brings your sales and marketing team to the forefront.

Here are some of the critical factors that will determine your product’s commercial success:

  • Market positioning/feedback
  • Branding
  • Value-proposition
  • Desirability

To a large extent, the effectiveness of your sales efforts is determined by your ability to drive the above-listed intelligence in real-time. This is where the problem statement lies: systems that are supposed to serve these requirements are often severely limited in terms of scale, connectivity, and ability.

Enter cloud. AI-driven new insights into customers and markets can optimize allocation, prices, incentives, and channels.

Distribution

Based on the target markets determined by in sales process, you require to ship your products. Now comes the supply chain – one of those frequently (mis)used terms! Today’s SCM is largely manually driven and is least adaptable to change. The problem statements: a poor implementation will waste labor, result in product and service redundancy, and missed deadlines, all of which increase costs.

Enter cloud. Digitally transforming your supply chain can simplify its management, easily optimize schedules, packing/batching, and routing from the market source.

Service

It is crucial to have clarity about your customers’ experience to improve customer acquisition and retention. However, your problem statement can be that you may not know this accurately enough or that your systems currently don’t support sharing customer feedback intelligently.

Enter cloud. Leveraging sentiment analysis bots can improve customer experience, unlock new revenue sources, and close the feedback loop from aftermarket to R&D.

 If you are wondering where this movement is currently at, then this is what you should know:

  1. Industry clouds: Every major hyperscaler already has or is in the process of establishing industry-specific clouds, with specific verticalized wrappers
  2. Top consultants such as HCL have prioritized their future around offering industry cloud expertise. For instance, HCL is the launch partner of Azure for manufacturing the cloud
  3. Powerful IPs: HCL’s Cloud Smart™ and IoT Works device management platform - DECoDe™ are proving to be the key differentiators in winning over manufacturing clients with their ability to set up and integrate the SmartFactory
  4. Key manufacturing systems such as MES are now cloud-native