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What Manufacturers Need to Know About Cloud Technologies

March 30, 2015 Tags: , ,
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Equipment manufacturers working to navigate the rapidly changing business landscape in today’s economy may be hard pressed to find the time and resources to launch new applications, roll out new products or implement new technologies while simultaneously keeping up with competitors and internal deadlines. However, the adoption of cloud computing can help manufacturers manage these challenges and goals while making the business stronger and more prepared for future innovation.

But cloud computing capabilities are sometimes viewed as a technology of the future – advancements that will someday be useful, but just not yet. This logic, however, has the ability to set manufacturers back years if they do not quickly adopt the cloud and its many uses. While some firms sit on the sidelines and continue to work within their current technological frameworks, others are actively engaging and seeing the benefits of cloud technologies in real time, from the production floor to the warehouse to the customer.

To avoid being left behind in the global transition toward cloud technology, here are six things manufacturers need to know:

1. Updating older technologies is easier than one may think

Switching over to a new system can be quite the daunting experience, taking months or even years to fully complete. But in the future, equipment manufacturers will no longer need to further update their hardware and on-site software, because the cloud system is updated automatically without the need for intervention on the part of manufacturers. Suppliers of the cloud framework remove weaknesses, improve efficiency and introduce new applications on the back end so manufacturers don’t have to set time and money aside to come up with their own technological solutions that would traditionally come from an internal IT department. These include fixes to any bugs and protection against any potential cyber security threats as well.

“Having a collaborative infrastructure in place can make transactions and data sharing more efficient.”

2. Digital information isn’t stored on site

Just as the name implies, the cloud operates in an invisible network of sensors and signals, communicating and transferring data immediately upon entry across entire airwaves regardless of location. The days of housing large data centers with millions of dollars worth of hardware on site are over – not to mention, the need to purchase new software or update systems in accordance with the latest technology is removed as well.

3. Analytics can remove inefficiencies

Some may falsely believe the removal of in-house networks could endanger the posterity of vital company documents and data. However, manufacturing data is actually stored in the cloud itself and can be accessed at the touch of a button. One step further, this data can be categorized and collated to serve a more useful purpose, granting manufacturers the ability to pull information from the cloud without having to wade through vast webs of in-house files.

Additionally, the data being transferred is useful in removing inefficiencies previous methods may have created. Instead of using physical parts catalogs, these indexes can be moved to the cloud, making it easier and more transparent for manufacturers and dealers to follow up on customer orders.

4. International business is more manageable

Instead of having to regulate and monitor the security and efficiency of external hard drives, company-issued computers and other devices, manufacturers use the cloud to consolidate daily workflows and facilitate greater engagement across borders, the Harvard Business Review reported. Whether an employee is working from home, a new overseas partner is securing an international deal or operators are improving global supply chain efficiency, the ability to log into a single browser at any point in time or location streamlines communication. And when conducting international business, having a collaborative infrastructure in place can make transactions and data sharing more efficient.

5. Sales and products can be tracked in real time

As electronic parts catalogs are moved online, so too are spreadsheets and reporting systems that keep tabs on all incoming and outgoing equipment. With access to the same network within the cloud, manufacturers can see when a part has made it through the production process, where it is stored in the warehouse, to whom it is sold and for how much in real time. The only requirement is that users enter data related to that specific part before passing it on. This allows owners to track sales and individual products and identify which items are performing best, providing key insight into customer demand.

6. Its adoption will be permanent

The permanence and success of cloud technology can be seen daily, whether it’s a consumer using a smartphone or an automobile connected to advanced global positioning systems.  Research institute LNS Research indicated more than 90 percent of software providers are actively investing more heavily in cloud capabilities, highlighting just how much the technological landscape has shifted. In addition, traditional manufacturing software providers are creating more electronic parts catalogs, essentially directing manufacturers toward the way of the future. For example, Documoto allows equipment manufacturers to effectively update and maintain parts catalogs conveniently at any time or location.

To learn more about how you can modernize your parts catalog with Documoto, watch our free on-demand webinar.

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How the Adoption of Disruptive Technologies Are Driving Growth for Manufacturers

March 27, 2015 Tags: , , , ,
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There’s a wealth of articles, research, and analysis heralding every scientific breakthrough and technological advance as the next big thing that will change the face of manufacturing.

McKinsey Global Institute estimates that disruptive technologies like the rise of mobile, knowledge work automation, the Internet of Things, cloud technology, and 3D printing, could account for an economic impact of up to $33 trillion by 2025.

Leading executives understand that their strategic competitive advantages might erode or be enhanced by emerging technical solutions. Disruptive technologies could potentially raise productivity, attract more customers, inspire new market strategies, and drive substantial growth.

Adopting these technologies is no longer optional or convenient. It’s a necessity to remain competitive. But how do you know which advances are actually worth your while? Unfortunately, as MGI reported, “Business leaders can’t wait until evolving technologies are having their effects to determine which developments are truly big things.”

While most manufacturers have a tendency to focus new technology investments on driving efficiencies and reducing costs, roughly a quarter of CEOs are planning to use emerging technology for new growth opportunities. Matt Reilly, the senior managing director of Accenture Strategy North America suggests more manufacturers do the same, sharing this equation: “Efficiency plus technology equals new capacities that create opportunities for new business models.”

So let’s take a look at some manufacturing enterprises that are actively adopting new technologies like IoT to drive opportunities for growth.

Union Pacific

One of our asset-intensive customers, Union Pacific, has reduced the number of train derailments caused by failed bearings by 75% with the help of near-real-time analysis of data collected by sensors. With that success under its built, the company is now focusing its R&D efforts on additional sensor technologies, like accelerometers that can feel for bumps that would suggest a faulty track.

As CIO Lynden Tennison explained to Information Week, the whole area of “sensor-based, network-based diagnostic and predictive analytics” will be the biggest technology opportunity in his industry for the next 10 or 15 years.

John Deere

John Deere has implemented several moves toward customer-facing IoT. By incorporating sensors in its equipment, the company can now do remote, wireless diagnostics of some tractors and combines.

Eventually, John Deere wants its harvesting equipment to inform a database that then informs tillage equipment, which, in turn, informs irrigation equipment, according to James Heppelmann of PTC.

Whirlpool

Whirlpool Corporation has found tremendous value in its first forays into creating connected appliances. Introducing convenience features like starting the washing machine from an iPhone have garnered consumer interest, and the company’s stock has continued to climb since introducing these optimized appliances over the past year.

Rather than connecting with customers every ten years when they need a new appliance, Whirlpool is now engaging with their customer base on a much more consistent basis. The result gives the company a deeper understanding of how its customers interact with Whirlpool products.

Which disruptive technology is your company planning to adopt? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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Leveraging Analytics to Enhance Operational Performance for Manufacturing Businesses

March 17, 2015 Tags: , , ,
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Over the last several years, manufacturers have shown a booming interest in big data. According to CSC Global CIO 2014-2015 Survey, 81% of manufacturers feel big data has a positive effect on production and efficiency, and 65% believe big data will be a strategic business driver moving forward. Managers are hoping they’ll reap benefits like improved product quality, more efficient supply planning and shortened order-to-deliver cycles.

With research studies emphasizing data’s importance and advantages, it’s easy to understand why manufacturers are exploring its possibilities. READ MORE