Guest Column | December 20, 2016

3 Ways Cloud Computing Improves Manufacturing Business Agility

Dan Johnson, President, Visual Business Solutions

By Dan Johnson, President, Visual Business Solutions

The manufacturing industry has always been on a quest to reduce cost, increase productivity, and minimize waste. Over the years, business strategies that have attempted to achieve this trifecta of manufacturing goals have come and gone. The Lean concept was one of the first that helped companies successfully streamline operations. It was followed by Agile which, as its name suggests, went beyond reducing waste and increasing efficiency to add flexibility and versatility to manufacturing capabilities, helping companies not only run leaner and meaner, but with an increased agility to help them quickly respond to market changes and competitors.

In today’s increasingly digitized manufacturing environment and hyper-speed markets, it has become harder for manufacturers hamstrung by premise-based legacy systems to meet rapidly-changing consumer preferences and product development requirements.

Enter the cloud.

Suddenly, manufacturers have operational options. Cloud computing seemed custom-made for manufacturers who had embraced Agile but ran up against an IT wall when they tried to quickly scale using a premise-based IT infrastructure and static ERP system. When Agile met cloud computing, the IT handcuffs came off and manufacturers were able to take all those previously streamlined, Lean processes, strip away the resource intensive, premise-based infrastructure and turn them into industrial-production-systems-as-a-service. Using a cloud-based IT ecosystem enables Agile companies to quickly and efficiently scale computing and database requirements up or down as customer or market demands require.

If your company has not yet gone to the cloud, here are three ways cloud computing can improve your business agility and efficiency.

1. The Cloud Reduces Spend, Increases Productivity

The cloud enables manufacturers to spend less time and money managing and upgrading their premise-based IT and more time growing their businesses. A cloud-based IT environment is easily scalable to handle all business processes as well as product development and manufacturing, without the high cost of internal IT infrastructure.

2. Cloud-Based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) Is Automatically Upgraded

Unlike premise-based IT systems, cloud-based software is automatically upgraded and proactively maintained for optimum performance. In addition to keeping your software optimized, SaaS helps keep your processes compliant with current industry requirements and government regulations.

3. Cloud Computing Fuels Growth

Manufacturers can respond quickly and easily to competitive pressure and market trends. The cloud enables companies to expand existing operations or even open new business units without having to expand or integrate IT infrastructure, substantially minimizing both capital investment and risk.

Cloud computing provides true manufacturing agility with on-demand, real-time access to data and resources, reduced costs and risk, as well as marketing and production scalability. The flexibility of the cloud and the speed of deployment make manufacturing systems particularly well suited to cloud-based ERP solutions and supply chain management for seamless, end-to-end business process and production integration.

With all this talk about manufacturing processes and systems, it’s easy to overlook the human factor. But cloud computing can have a profound, positive affect upon the manufacturing workforce, enabling workers to do their jobs better, faster, and with greater flexibility by removing the static restraints of proprietary, premise-based systems. Workers today are already used to living in the cloud with smart phones, Wi-Fi-enabled devices, mobile apps and other Internet-powered tools that seem to impact every aspect of everyday living.

Today’s workers interact easily with Internet-based connectivity and the cloud, so to perform their jobs there is an intuitive extension requiring minimal training, unlike having to learn an arcane, premise-based legacy system that has been customized and patched over time. Employees are better able and more inclined to fix problems on their own if they no longer have to constantly enlist IT’s help.

Cloud computing is here to stay. As technology continues to evolve, so does manufacturing, and for companies still struggling with rapidly-aging, premise-based IT systems, cloud computing is the logical next step that will help them stay agile, competitive, and growing.

Dan Johnson is President of Visual Business Solutions whose goal is to guide clients along a clear and practical path to who they want to be. Dan is a dynamic and results-driven executive with an extensive background in new business development, strategic planning/relationships, market development, and operations management. He is a true expert in anticipating, meeting, and exceeding customer's needs. In previous roles, Dan served in executive roles leading the sales function, in several corporations, and was noted for delivering record-breaking results in business growth and profitability.