How the Cloud Can Improve Your Manufacturing Operations
As cloud-based technology has become more popular in recent years, businesses as well as individuals have taken advantage of the many benefits that come from using centralized, web-based systems to replace software that is installed locally on a computer.
This type of technology has much to offer the manufacturing industry, and innovative manufacturing companies are increasingly using a growing number of web-based tools to run their businesses more efficiently.
Compared to the custom-built software programs and applications that have been used on-site at manufacturing facilities in recent years, cloud-based systems are generally more versatile, easier to use and update, and come with a variety of other features that give them a lot of advantages.
The term Enterprise Resource Planning software (commonly referred to as “ERP software”) is generally used to describe any suite of software applications geared toward the manufacturing industry. ERP software may handle everything from production planning to manufacturing, to sales and marketing, and many ERP software providers have moved their systems online.
Here are 3 ways that cloud-based technology can improve your manufacturing options:
1. Access to a Central Data Source
A manufacturing company rarely operates from one sole location. Typically, many departments and physical sites have to communicate with each other on a regular basis, from the product design stage to the final sale.
Cloud-based solutions enable everyone involved in the manufacturing process, from any location, to log into the same system and share information and data in real time. That means always-updated reports, custom dashboards, and valuable analytics features.
As ARC President Andy Chatha noted in IndustryWeek:
“Manufacturers have done a good job over the past decade of optimizing and automating their supply chains. Now the focus needs to be on “end-to-end” integration that fosters collaboration between R&D, engineering, operations and other functions.
When all workers share and have access to the same system, it improves communication and saves time that would have been spent compiling, uploading and sending the information to all the shareholders.”
2. Lower IT Costs
When you use third-party, cloud-based software to manage your business, your IT department no longer has to worry about server maintenance, upgrades, or building out new features.
Similarly, you won’t pay the costs associated with installing or hosting your custom software.
An article in Automation World sums up the positive changes from using cloud-based software on the manufacturing company IPICO, “Cloud computing lowers both the upfront cost and total cost of ownership of highly specialized and expensive software.”
Third-party software systems, may also offer new features and upgrades automatically, which can be especially helpful when you’re using a software that was developed specifically for the manufacturing industry; the third-party software company can spend the time looking for advances and improvements, and your own IT staff can refocus their efforts elsewhere.
3. Comprehensive Solution
Although manufacturing companies will be specifically interested in features that allow users to analyze and view reports on things like production planning, delivery, shipping, payment, inventory, and raw materials, there are plenty of other time-saving features available as part of cloud-based technology. Those include apps built specifically to address the human resources, accounting, and marketing needs of businesses.
Your program may manage everything from hiring paperwork and performance reviews to benefits, payroll, and more.
There are plenty of cloud-based apps that allow your sales, marketing, and customer service staffs to manage customer relationships (this is commonly referred to as customer relationship management or “CRM” software). These programs can handle everything from attracting new leads to converting those leads to sales, to analyzing which marketing efforts get the best return on investment. Other solutions, known as help desk platforms or ticketing systems, are available which can handle all aspects of customer service, making it easy to centrally address customer concerns and problems.
Cloud-Based Technology is Here to Stay
As stated in Forbes: manufacturers are using cloud-based systems to streamline key areas of their business, which frees up their time to invest in new products and concentrate on increasing sales.
Getting your manufacturing teams familiar with using cloud-based software means that they’ll be more up-to-date with the technology that might be the future for your own products. Consumers are demanding more and more integrations with cloud-based apps; so that day might be coming sooner than you think.
Photo credit: Fagor Automation / CC BY-ND 2.0