Cloud computing for manufacturing – it’s a gift really
The manufacturing sector as a whole is undergoing a “fast and furious” digital transformation. Improvements and simplifications in smart manufacturing processes, shop floor automation, AI and robotics all benefit from edge analytics implementation that drive the process of industrial cloud computing platform adoption.
The industrial cloud covers everything from the factory floor to the industrial site (often multi-location and overseas), and it is unifying the supply chain as companies employ a combination of digital business, product, manufacturing, asset, and logistics planning to streamline operations across both internal and external processes.
Small and medium manufacturing has started the cloud adoption already without even realising doing it. Adobe, Dropbox, Office 365, Slack, Trello and other similar software are all cloud-based.
Saying this, there is still a lot of hesitation from the above group to adopt the cloud replacing IT infrastructure and shop floor hardware. When the cloud integration question has been asked, we hear the usual answers such as “why do I need to go to the cloud if I always have been doing it this way” – this is the most dangerous statement of them all, nevertheless the most popular. “I’m too small to get the full benefits of the cloud, so why to bother” or “my business resources are allocated in produce & sell so I don’t have time to adopt/implement.”
I believe the above answers underpinning the fact that manufacturers are still don’t understand cloud computing and/or are afraid of any changes that sooner or later will occur anyhow. The cloud is certainly one of modern factories requirements, helping to sustain the company growth and expand often internationally accordingly to the market demands (i.e. agile manufacturing) rather than an old school mass production method.
Furthermore, there are also small businesses believing that cloud computing is for enterprise manufacturing only. Totally distinct from the truth though. The producers that adopted the cloud already have recognised that their productivity has increased considerably. The most popular cloud solutions are being used for DevOps, HR and logistics.
At present IaaS, PaaS, SaaS cloud models are the most recognisable and explored cloud platforms. From the cloud platforms mentioned above manufacturers are able to do either a full cloud adoption or as a hybrid solution, with the latest utilising the cloud only for some of their business operations run on-premise. As it’s stands the hybrid model is mostly used for online protection against cybercrime and theft, natural or technology disasters. Backup and recovery and disaster recovery lead the pack of the cloud “as a services”.
To get the full benefits of the cloud, manufacturers should invest in infrastructure as a service (IaaS). IaaS is the largest form of cloud available, commonly named as a cluster or blob, providing huge agility and elasticity. It’s being offered to the market as a public or private cloud. Private cloud sounds a bit expensive and the Public sounds a bit open, unsecured and unrestricted. So, is there something between you could ask?
The answer is yes and comes from VMware in the form of NSX cloud. This cloud behaves like a private cloud or vDC (virtual datacentre) with a security layer wrapped around it. The NSX cloud automatically quarantines compromised workloads, if they do not have the right micro-segmentation security policy applied, and shorten the time it takes to identify and resolve network connectivity, performance, and security issues. A distributed firewalling architecture eliminates additional network hops and traffic because policies are enforced at the virtual network interface of each instance, rather than routed through an external firewall.
The IaaS with NSX is a cost-effective platform and should be a solid foundation for organisations that require a cloud solution that’s easily scalable and with minimal interruption to normal IT operations.
4 reasons why small and medium manufacturers should adopt IaaS.
The agility in manufacturing provides the backbone supporting R&D, and other DevOps that could occur unpredictably. The provision and de-provision of internal resources take very little time, also enabling the infrastructure size and performance to match the demand. The cloud IaaS (vDC) can be easily scaled up or down anytime and anyplace. This makes IaaS, with its agility and elasticity, a great solution to substitute an on-premise model or for companies that are constantly evolving.
2. Cost reduction
This is the most obvious point and could be delivered in several ways. Owning hardware comes with high costs excluding the post-purchase maintenance and upgrades. IaaS eliminates the need to purchase or lease the latest hardware and networking devices for provisioning workloads often requiring manual intervention from internal teams and high labour costs from 3rd party project management. Moving from a Capex to Opex model reduces the costs even further by paying for only what you’ve consumed.
3. Business growth
IaaS allows the manufacturers to focus on improving and growing their production. The cloud provides great abilities to manipulate harvested data and adjust production lines, often in real time. Owning hardware comes with additional costs and labour such as maintenance and upgrades. All the time and money spent on making technology decisions, hiring the right specialists and technology project management now can be replaced with enhanced productivity, business expansion and a competitive edge.
4. Business continuity
Single and multi-site manufacturers with often geographically dispersed operations need to have different disaster recovery and business continuity plans. This often leads to high business cost and makes IT management is more difficult if done on-premise. IaaS platform provides a combined infrastructure for disaster recovery and backup which comes with vastly reduced cost and allows for more effective control and an early stage warning notification delivered instantly. If a disaster or cyber-attack strikes, business managers can access the same infrastructure via an internet connection anytime and from anywhere.