What is the Cloud?
The cloud is an internet-based network where companies (and individuals) can store and access data and other information. Rather than storing all of this information locally, using the cloud means the data is stored on servers located in data centers all over the world. The information can then be accessed remotely from anywhere, offering benefits to manufacturers like real-time machine monitoring and advanced analytics.
What is Cloud Based Manufacturing?
Following in the footsteps of all industries that are part of the digital transformation, manufacturing companies are transitioning into digital manufacturing. An integral part of this process includes manufacturers implementing cloud based MES and other cloud based manufacturing software – essentially putting all of their data and resources online. Not only does this streamline the operations of individual manufacturing companies, but it has also created a new paradigm in the industry that is called cloud based manufacturing.
Using cloud based manufacturing systems to store information means that any device (with permission) can access the information. Cloud based manufacturing, therefore, refers to manufacturing companies sharing their capabilities and resources online so that a customer can, for example, go to one website that uses a cloud manufacturing platform and order their desired products. Behind the scenes, the actual manufacturing process is then assigned to a relevant manufacturer or divided amongst two or more.
What are the Benefits of Cloud Based Manufacturing?
Cloud based manufacturing makes the entire manufacturing process more efficient, streamlined and cost-effective in the following key ways:
- Flexibility – When a customer places an order on the cloud manufacturing platform, it is automatically routed to the closest available manufacturer who has the right capabilities to do the job. This means that the supply chain is not fixed – it can change based on the job requirements and the expertise of the manufacturers.
- Quality – With shared access to the knowledge and capabilities of many different manufacturers, best practices will be used and the production quality will increase.
- Speed – Orders can be divided among multiple manufacturers based on each one’s workload and their availability to make sure orders are completed faster.
What are the Risks of Cloud Based Manufacturing?
Some manufacturers, particularly those on the low end of the digital maturity index, may be hesitant to participate in a cloud based manufacturing system due to perceived risks. Such risks include a lack of security, loss of control over the data as well as a steep learning curve. The truth is that cloud based networks in general are just as, if not more, secure than on-premise servers with plenty of protections in place against security breaches. Administrators can also still fully control who has permission to view the data in the cloud, and all of the information is still “owned” by the manufacturing company even if it is stored remotely. Finally, the learning curve itself is easily overcome as many of the cloud based systems come with training sessions and are designed to be intuitive and easy to use. The end goal of cloud based manufacturing is to be more convenient and make companies more productive, so ease of use is a key feature.