It’s the new manufacturing paradigm developed thanks to the possibilities offered by connectivity and the cloud. An increasing number of companies are offering their software associated with Cloud Manufacturing, such as ERP, CRM, MES.
According to a report by the advisory company Gartner, this year, services linked with the cloud will grow by 17% globally, to 266,400 million dollars, with Software as a Service (SaaS) being the most productive, with 116,000 million. By 2022, it is predicted that Cloud will have increased by 33%, to 354,600 million.
Would it be possible to have all of the software for a manufacturing process in the cloud? The answer is yes, but the best solution involves having a hybrid system, where there is a local, low latency program in the plant with a certain level of intelligence that is able to work autonomously for some time without Cloud. This is what we call Edge or Fog Computing. This way, companies can have their programs, applications and data in an in-house or external environment, in the cloud.
For some manufacturers, the idea of "disconnecting" makes them uncomfortable because, given that all members of the organization can access the data from any location, sensitive information could fall into the wrong hands. They also fear that critical processes could be shutdown. However, with the correct measures, Cloud is just as safe as a local server, maybe even more so, and guarantees the continuity of processes.
Ultimately, Cloud Manufacturing is a new way of working in a digital and collaborative environment, the IT and OT departments combining to become competitive in Industry 4.0, which democratizes access to cutting-edge hardware and software.
Let’s take a look at the advantages of incorporating Cloud Manufacturing in our plant:
1. Lower costs
Working in the cloud substantially lowers the cost of hardware and software as it removes the necessity of investing in IT infrastructures, costly in itself, not only because of the technology but also the resources associated with the installations, the maintenance, energy or technical staff, not to mention problems caused by downtime and breaks in activity. Servers and licenses are in Cloud as a subscription model, where they are hired per use.
This payment per use is ideal for companies with increasing or fluctuating bandwidth requirements. If the clients’ needs increase, the system scales capacity automatically and vice versa. That is, the Cloud is flexible and adapts to production requirements, which results in the reduction of costs as you only pay for what you need.
All data is sent to Cloud, where it is processed and stored. It is not strictly this storage that constitutes the highest expense with cloud-based services, but that derived from all of the existing applications and those being developed around this technology to be able to make the most of the plant’s data and use Machine Learning techniques to, among other things, forecast peaks in demand, prevent delays in production, redistribute workloads or avoid problems with stock, etc. All of this, once again, not only has a positive impact on cost reduction but also substantially improves response times.
3. Automatic updates
One of the problems with security breaches is that the attacks are not aimed at a company, but at equipment that, if not properly updated, ends up being vulnerable and increasing the risk of being attacked. With Cloud, this weakness disappears because, on the one hand, the servers are outside of the factory’s facilities and, on the other, the system always runs with the latest software version.
4. No obsolescence
This updating of the programs is extensive in the hardware infrastructure, therefore there is no risk of obsolescence.
Increasing safety, a topic that is critical for the user, the data stored in Cloud Manufacturing is encrypted and there are automatic back-up systems that allow back-up copies to be obtained regularly. Equally, it can be accessed regardless of what happens with the machines.
Given that all you need is connectivity, you can work from anywhere, regardless of the device from which you want to access the system. You are no longer tied down to a physical space in order to work with the information.
7. Better collaboration
Be it employee, supplier or client, the data is shared. You can work with it at any time and from any place, which streamlines production making it more efficient. The Cloud-based work flow and applications for sharing files help to perform updates in real time, granting processes full visibility.
How does Cloud Computing work?
On the one hand, we find ourselves with a user interface or frontend and, on the other hand, the backend, which is the service itself in the cloud (storage, servers, programs, applications). Both are connected to each other, via the internet, to a central server which supplies services using nodes, so that if greater capacity is required, new spaces are opened up.
And all of this can be easily integrated with the rest of the programs and processes at the plant. Thinking that the cloud is only for large corporations is a mistake. SMEs are just as capable of using this technology, regardless of their size. Cloud Manufacturing is the new lever for increasing competitiveness with a smart factory capable of offering customized solutions during the whole life-cycle of the manufacturing process.