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How Cloud Computing Can Improve Your Manufacturing Business Agility

Cloud Computing Manufacturing
By: Dan Johnson

The concept of agile manufacturing first popped up over a decade ago as manufacturers were looking for the Next Big Thing beyond Lean manufacturing. Agile manufacturing was seen as a natural evolution, the next link that would take manufacturing from being simply streamlined (“lean”) to flexible and versatile as well (“agile”).

Over the past ten years or so, agile has become popular because it’s the ideal business strategy for companies in highly competitive markets, enabling them to respond quickly and efficiently to market changes. Companies that have embraced agile manufacturing typically have strong supplier relationships and empowered employees focused on delivering quality products to meet customer demands.

Cloud computing is the next logical step for manufacturers who have come to the agile concept recently or are just now considering it and still using an on-premise IT infrastructure and ERP system. Think of it this way – agile cloud manufacturing is simply taking all those streamlined, agile premise-based systems and processes, stripping away the resource-intensive, on-premise infrastructure and transforming it all into industrial-production-systems-as-a-service.

The real power of the cloud is the way it enables manufacturers to spend less time and money managing their IT and more time growing their businesses. Users can now access all that operational functionality in the cloud – process design, production management, business processes, and virtualization, to name a few. An added benefit? The cloud supports closer, easier collaboration with suppliers and customers without proprietary IT walls between them.

Cloud computing improves business agility by: 

Empowering employees The cloud enables workers to do their jobs better, faster, and with greater flexibility by removing the handcuffs of proprietary on-premise systems. Workers today are already used to living in the cloud, so to perform their jobs there as well is an intuitive extension requiring minimal training, unlike having to learn an arcane legacy system. Employees are better able and more inclined to fix problems on their own if they no longer have to constantly enlist IT’s help to program process changes.

Fueling growth Cloud-based solutions enable companies to rapidly establish new business units or expand existing operations virtually anywhere without having to expand or integrate IT infrastructure, substantially minimizing both capital investment and risk. They also offer better business results by making it easier to share information with new or existing partners and suppliers regardless of where they are located -- around the corner or around the world.

Simplifying compliance Rapidly evolving markets and industries can often cause compliance headaches for manufacturers. Aligning processes and products with regulatory requirements can be a daunting task, but migrating to a cloud-based SaaS strategy offers a number of benefits over a legacy on-premise model, enabling enterprises to reign in the complexity, cost, and risk of compliance. Cloud computing supports automatic updates to simplify the process of keeping systems current. It also ensures that everyone in the company has access to the most current information and tools to do their jobs effectively and efficiently.

It’s not hyperbole to say that cloud computing and agile cloud manufacturing can transform your business. Cloud computing translates into greater visibility and flexibility across every function and department, providing faster innovation as well as improved productivity and efficiencies.