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Head in the clouds

Cloud has been one of the most revolutionary technologies to impact on the manufacturing industry in the last decade.

Having risen to prominence in 2010, it has gone on to transform the way many manufacturers source, handle and interact with their data, allowing them in turn to completely rethink the way they operate. However, it is still not widely adopted.

Cloud has long helped consumers in mainstream technology but what are the key benefits it can deliver to those manufacturers yet to make the switch?

Manufacturers with multi-location operations are one of the biggest beneficiaries of cloud. Historically, each site would be managed independently, with data and process information never leaving the plant. However, when data is fed to the cloud, a business can then get a real-time overview of the operation and performance of all its sites, making it easier to compare productivity and measure efficiencies. This can prove invaluable when identifying why plant X outperforms plant Y.

The connectivity within each site is also improved through cloud, paving the way for implementation of mobility across the facility. This gives everybody who needs it instant access to real-time data and analytics of the running of the plant. Such has been the development of mobile technologies, that this can be tailored to specific areas so relevant data is made available when engineers walk into a different zone. Similarly, devices tailored for use in hazardous zones have also risen in prominence.

Improving Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)

OEE is the metric that looks at the availability, performance and quality of operations, is also a key driver for switching to the cloud. Cloud can help reduce system downtime due to its ability to readily monitor and react to data, meaning that systems outages can be pinpointed before they become a reality. Similarly, cloud also provides a low-cost and easy way of upgrading systems, as there is no expensive hardware required and system updates can occur without costly downtime.

With increased external legislation and regulation, increasing numbers of manufacturers are required to provide regular data to third parties. Cloud assists this level of collaboration by ensuring that data is readily available and collated, meaning that information for metrics such as energy usage can be accessed by those with relevant security clearance, whenever they need it.

Security is often one of the objections raised by manufacturers when talking about the cloud. Our response is relatively straightforward - many manufacturers are already utilising cloud services in their corporate and commercial processes, whether that be email, accounting or even online services such as DropBox, and, as such, there is no reason why non-critical manufacturing processes shouldn’t be moved there too.

The operational efficiency and cost saving benefits that cloud technologies deliver are too large to ignore and, with many of the world’s leading manufacturers now reliant on it, it’s time to get your head into the cloud.