How Manufacturing Companies Can Effectively Leverage the Cloud

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It will come as no surprise to industry observers, that cloud adoption by SMBs and larger enterprises is on the rise.  A survey of technical professionals earlier this year found that “95 percent of organizations surveyed are running applications or experimenting with infrastructure-as-a-service” (IaaS), and “85 percent of enterprises have a multi-cloud strategy, up from 82 percent in 2016.” [i] There’s no question that for many companies’ cloud initiatives are becoming increasingly important not only to IT organizations, but also to the overall success of the business.

Looking to the manufacturing industry, despite relative hesitancy in past years, it has changed more recently to embrace the cloud. Manufacturers are adopting the cloud for range of uses including high-performance computing (HPC), enterprise resource planning (ERP), Internet of Things (IoT), big data, predictive analytics, and more. A 2016 survey discovered that “73% of Manufacturing companies consider it Important or Very Important that supply chain Cloud offerings can establish and scale collaboration to reduce risk and increase agility.”[ii]  Furthermore, discrete and process manufacturers represent two of the top five consumers of the $70 billion global cloud computing services market.[iii]

This change of attitudes, and the actual movement of more IT applications and workloads to the cloud, requires continued organizational evolution. According to a Bain & Company report, IT organizations across industries, including manufacturing, “will need to develop new roles to manage the cloud environment, and some employees will need to learn new skills or shift to different areas. IT may need to upgrade its capabilities in ITIL, Agile, DevOps and project management to capture the cloud’s full value, and this will require changing existing processes to work well in the cloud.” [iv]

There’s certainly truth in this, but it also points to challenges.  Learning new skills and upgrading such capabilities takes time and resources. Keeping enterprise IT organizations on the cutting edge of advances in cloud technologies and development processes may be attractive in theory, but in practice may not be achievable. Changes and advances in technology simply are coming at a pace too rapid for most organizations to keep up with.  For just one example, Amazon Web Services alone adds “around 1000 new features every single year”, and the trend indicates that number will only increase over time.[v]

An alternative or complimentary approach is for IT to partner with an outside consultant who actively keeps up with the rapid pace of cloud platform advances, and who has software development and customization as one its core competencies. Such a consultant can act as a trusted advisor to help guide the IT organizations in their cloud adoption strategy, and optimization of existing cloud deployments.

Even manufacturers that do a relatively good job keeping their IT organizations up to date with the latest technologies and best practices can greatly benefit from having an independent expert helping them optimize their cloud adoption and application development initiatives.

Given the competitive landscape manufacturing companies face, they must be as efficient as possible in every aspect of their operations.  That is certainly true for their utilization of cloud computing. They may find it worthwhile to look outside their organization for additional expert guidance that can help them to migrate application workloads to the cloud, as well as to better leverage existing and future cloud services most effectively. Such an approach can help manufacturers not only to make more strategic choices about the cloud. It can also allow them to maintain greater focus on their core business, thereby contributing positively toward that sought after competitive edge.

Today's guest post is written by Greg Shank

 

[i] "Right Scale, State of the Cloud Report 2017," (Right Scale, 2017), http://assets.rightscale.com/uploads/pdfs/RightScale-2017-State-of-the-Cloud-Report.pdf

[ii] Richard Rodgers, “Automation and the cloud in manufacturing,” Inspirage, August 2016, www.inspirage.com/2016/08/automation-cloud-manufacturing/

[iii] “The Rise of Cloud Computing in Manufacturing,” Boss Magazine, January 2017, https://thebossmagazine.com/cloud-computing-manufacturing/

[iv] Syed Ali, Steve Berez, Paul Callahan and Vishy Padmanabhan, “Tapping Cloud's Full Potential,” Bain & Company, April 8, 2015, www.bain.com/publications/articles/tapping-clouds-full-potential.aspx

[v] Ron Miller, “AWS Shoots for Total Cloud Domination,” Tech Crunch, December 2, 2016, https://techcrunch.com/2016/12/02/aws-shoots-for-total-cloud-domination/