The network of Internet servers known as “the cloud” can be a valuable resource that allows a company to be more efficient—if it is used effectively. Primary drivers for moving manufacturing operations management to the cloud include cost control and anytime, anywhere access to critical business information. With data available from anywhere with a Web browser connection, manufacturers can improve planning and decision-making processes.
However, manufacturers face daunting challenges in their current operations as well as obstacles in making the leap to the cloud. For example, expensive on-premises enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions often are underutilized. Instead of taking advantage of all the features the ERP system has to offer, employees manage critical business processes on Excel spreadsheets. This practice poses grave security risks and also creates data silos, hampering organizational effectiveness.
Another challenge for manufacturing operations with multiple locations is the lack of an end-to-end solution that is accessible by distributed facilities. Manufacturers very often operate in disparate locations, and without a comprehensive, current ERP system that everyone in the business uses, it’s difficult for operations professionals and key business decision makers to get the information they need to improve efficiency and plan for the future.
A cloud-based manufacturing operations management system can help resolve these issues, but many manufacturers aren’t in a position to immediately jettison their current ERP implementations and make a wholesale move to the cloud, so a gradual evolution to the cloud is the best option.
Here are three approaches that can help manufacturers evolve to the cloud at a pace that works for their operations:
1. Fix what’s broken first. Evaluate critical business processes, identify what’s not working under the current system, and migrate those processes to the cloud first. Find out which processes employees are handling in applications like Excel, which can expose the company to liability in the event of a data breach and create data silos. Also, for manufacturing businesses that have multiple locations, fixing what’s broken will likely include connecting all of those locations to the cloud to facilitate communication with headquarters and enable collaboration through the central on-premises solution.
2. Find a configurable, no-code development solution. While manufacturers are in the process of migrating to the cloud, it’s important that employees be given solutions they can use to streamline core business processes and integrate systems. A configurable, no-code development tool allows tech-savvy employees to create their own applications (instead of waiting years for overstretched IT teams to develop them) and configure systems to match their processes in a way that out-of-the-box solutions cannot. This also protects the company by ensuring security and enabling integration.
3. Maximize the on-premises system investment. Since many manufacturers have invested heavily in on-premises ERP implementations, it makes sense to use that investment to the best advantage, and doing so is not necessarily incompatible with moving to the cloud. Manufacturers can evolve toward the cloud by developing cloud-based solutions that integrate with their legacy systems, first focusing on the critical business processes most in need of improvement.
A cloud solution is scalable and easily accessible from multiple locations, and can eliminate costly annual maintenance and infrastructure costs. The best way to seize the opportunity and capitalize on the cloud is a deliberate evolution that focuses on the critical business processes most in need of improvement, and on a configurable development solution that doesn’t require coding and maximizes the investment in legacy systems.