How the Cloud Is Helping to Drive Digital Transformation in Manufacturing

Sung Kim, CTO of iBASE

– By Sung Kim, CTO, iBASEt

Cloud technology is helping to drive Industry 4.0 transformation in many ways. It can offload data center costs, ease systems integration, and provide a cost-effective approach to scaling resources and infrastructure requirements. Interestingly, there has been a new benefit that is gaining more attention as we emerge to a “post-COVID” world. When some or all of your company’s workforce is working remotely supporting customers working from anywhere, the importance of your software being hosted in a local datacenter matters less – keeping everything else at par.

Of course, maintaining application updates, managing role-based access, and maintaining data integrity remain of utmost importance. Provided these maintenance tasks can continue to be provided acceptably, the concept of what it means to “locally” host your systems infrastructure becomes less of a concern. The definition of “local” has forever changed.

The New World of Anywhere Working

This shift in defining local work could be classified as one of the unexpected outcomes of going through a global pandemic. Industry research supports this shift, showing that 94% of all enterprises already use a Cloud service in some form. New investment in this technology only further reinforces this trend is not slowing down.

But it’s not all about technology. Cloud solutions are also addressing the most traditional of concerns: staffing and workers. Today, there are millions of manufacturing jobs that cannot be filled, and many of those positions will likely remain unfilled. A recent study of 800 U.S.-based manufacturers concluded that these missing jobs could cost manufacturers $1 trillion by 2030.

At the same time, there has been a huge upswing in people working remotely. This trend was already underway before the pandemic, and it has only accelerated in the last two years. Across all industries, including manufacturing, we are now becoming accustomed to “work anywhere” operations.

The Cloud is a key technology enabler behind these trends. It augments human processes so that people can get more done with less effort. It helps manufacturers maintain–or even improve–their productivity when faced with a long-term staffing shortage.

Empowering Remote Workers

Gartner has forecast that 51% of global knowledge workers will be remote by the end of 2021 – or more than half! This ranges from individual professionals working in their home offices to administrative teams from different locations monitoring servers and responding to increases and decreases in bandwidth and usage.

The trend is not limited to classic white-collar workers, either. It’s estimated that 32% of all employees worldwide will soon be working remotely, and this will include work that traditionally has required an on-site presence. For example, a forklift driver with Cloud-enabled technology such as a VR headset and remote controls can now operate at multiple warehouses while working from home or a regional office. One skilled driver could work the morning in Asia and the afternoon in North America as the company requires, or even change locations several times an hour.

The Cloud has emerged as a great option to support this kind of systems infrastructure to provide this kind of global accessibility. It allows everyone with an internet connection to participate in this new work environment. Applications can be readily accessed from anywhere while scaling quickly and easily, whenever needed. The pandemic has shown us that you never know what your business’s needs will look like a year from now, so the ability to quickly adapt to change is imperative.

Attracting the Best Talent

Throughout the next decade, it will be harder than ever for manufacturers to find skilled people at all levels. It may be especially hard to find the workforce you need to successfully implement your digital transformation strategy.

How do you attract the people you want? Supporting remote workers is one way, and is fast becoming a requirement. What about on-site workers? No amount of automation will ever fully eliminate the need for some people to be on-site, so the cloud is just as important here, too. For example, Augmented Reality (AR) is best deployed in multiple factories via the Cloud because the application is so data-intensive. A private network with central storage will struggle to support the kind of bandwidth required. An edge computing environment that leverages the Cloud can easily support AR anywhere, along with providing local processing and data availability in real-time to both remote and on-site employees.

Those entering the workforce today were born into a technological world. They’re going to expect the best technology when they go to work, wherever that work is.

Cloud Security

One reason that Cloud usage is growing so rapidly is the acceptance by companies that it is a secure platform for enterprise applications, even for manufacturers operating in highly regulated and compliance-driven industries. The top Cloud providers have advanced and layered security procedures that are continuously updated to prevent, detect, and respond to security threats. Furthermore, systems based in the Cloud are unlikely to be affected, at least for long, by physical threats such as natural disasters. The fact is, Cloud solutions are often more reliable and secure than traditional in-house settings.

However, manufacturers should still vet their Cloud provider to ensure that robust security systems and procedures are in place. And critically, each enterprise must secure its networks and systems, especially in an organization with remote and far-flung operations. Your Cloud provider can only protect the data it receives; it is no replacement for internal, end-to-end security.

The New Workplace

By 2025, it’s predicted that manufacturers will have reduced their operational costs by 25%, combining automation technologies with redesigned operational processes enabled by the Cloud. Much of this will have to do with making people more productive. It won’t only be about improving the way people work now, which is how we tend to think of technology. It will also be about changing the relationship between the organization and the people who work for it, and what it even means to work.

Many factors are driving digital transformation, but in the coming years, a lot will depend on how well manufacturers can create a new kind of workplace that is more mobile, more agile, and more productive than ever before. And they’ll need to make extensive use of the Cloud to do it.

About the Leader

Sung is an experienced technology architect and a published computer scientist. During his tenure at iBASEt, Sung played a key role in enhancing Solumina’s technology and exploring architecture experiments for future product directions. As the Chief Technology Officer, Sung leads iBASEt’s long-term technology vision and is responsible for the overall product architecture and infrastructure deployment profiles, focusing on open standards and integration technologies

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