The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for manufacturers to adopt new technologies in order to innovate and better compete within their industry. With new opportunities becoming available through the use of cloud technology and services, manufacturers have begun to adopt the cloud as a means to improve their productivity and internal processes alike through a range of cloud based IT including technologies such as AI (Artificial Intelligence), Automation, Mixed Reality and Digital Twin Capability to create an innovative production process.
“It is said that by 2022, 70% of all manufacturers are going to be creating 50% of their new products and services through cloud based platforms.” – Sophie Green (Microsoft, Account Director – Manufacturing).
How is the cloud helping manufacturers?
Cloud technologies are allowing manufacturers to ensure their regulatory compliance across their operations, which includes import/export, cyber security, data protection and many others. Manufacturers generate vast amounts of data, far exceeding that of any other industry or business. With cyber security being a major concern for many businesses, maintaining regulatory compliance in data security is paramount; in particular when manufacturers have high profile clients such as governmental agencies which require a more strict compliance to security than most other businesses.
With cloud technology allowing services to be accessed from any location on any device, the need to maintain security across these devices is vital. Running your business on the cloud ensures that regular security updates and the latest versions of software are always running across every device associated to your business and most importantly that this process is automatic. This helps to reduce the cyber security risk to business data and maintain compliance.
As new digital channels are becoming more widely used for sales, customer service and internal processes, the amount of data being produced is also becoming far greater. This becomes a challenge when manufacturers must record and store sensitive data to comply with regulations. Cloud enables this data to be automatically recorded from any device in any location and securely, without any interaction from employees needed. This not only allows staff to utilise their time more effectively but also reduces the risk of human error in the process which can have an impact if carried out manually and incorrectly.
With the help of AI technology, compliance has never been easier. AI coupled with the cloud allows businesses to monitor regulatory compliance throughout every inch of their operations. This includes new regulations, specific changes being made and also breaches of any regulations in real time to ensure that the business is always operating as it should be while also providing assistance in how to resolve certain issues at a variety of different levels of the organisation. This also takes out the manual need to check regulatory compliances which may change overtime and effect the business differently which helps to free up employee time to make better use throughout other areas of the business.
Product Safety & Traceability
Cloud has allowed the integration of different technologies which are combined to provide outstanding results and capabilities for manufacturers regardless of the industry vertical they are in. What is key is the safety of products that are being made, whether it be chemical, pharmaceutical, aerospace manufacturing or any other type for that matter.
With the case of medicinal and pharmaceutical manufacturers, the products they create must meet strict criteria in order to be deemed safe for consumers. With the help of IoT sensors and AI, manufacturers can track and measure the temperatures at which their products are stored throughout their inventory and while being delivered to their destination. IoT allows the 24/7 monitoring of the conditions the products are being stored in, with the data being transferred and accessed remotely via the cloud. AI is used to determine the accuracy and stability of the devices measuring the temperature which analyses and then feeds performance data remotely to those who need it.
Many manufacturers have to ensure complete traceability of their products, especially when operating in certain industries where products can be harmful or dangerous if not produced correctly. This is particularly useful in aerospace, pharmaceutical or vehicle manufacturing , amongst others, where batches of products may need to be recalled and located due to poor quality, defective parts, or any other reason which deems the product ‘unsafe’. The use of RFID tags has made it possible for manufacturers to track details regarding products they have made and delivered to their customers. Transit history of shipping containers, delivery routes, final locations and serial numbers can all be tracked to ensure that the recalled items can be located and immediately called back to the manufacturers. With closer integration and transparency with other suppliers within the supply chain, recalled items can also be traced through serial numbers as to where these faulty items may have been used, for example a faulty part used in an aircraft (the aircraft the part is in could effectively be traced).
Supply Chain Integrity
Manufacturers undoubtedly have complex supply chains which require careful management to ensure they run smoothly. This is particularly true in the aerospace or defence industries where the number of suppliers involved is magnified and requires close collaboration to work. Cloud technology enables suppliers to share information regarding inventories, pricing, quality, delivery schedules and much more to ensure fast and efficient collaboration which provides complete visibility of materials and parts flowing through the supply chain. This helps to ensure the accuracy of data flowing through the business.. The increase in the ability to collaborate faster enables the production process to be increased which in turn lets manufacturers deliver their products to customers faster, improving customer service and reputation in the process.
With the cloud, employees at any stage of the production process can access this information with any device at any location. This means that better and more informed business decisions can be made based on the available real time information they have to hand. In turn, this improves the accuracy of internal processes being carried out and allows for tangible gains to be found in the form of time saved, reduced waste and improved productivity from staff.