Digital transformation is here to stay, and manufacturers are unique to show others how to make the most of the cloud. Manufacturing can lead the way in demonstrating the advantage of innovative technologies like AI, blockchain, machine learning, and the Internet of Things and the ability to continuously innovate and transform business models with rapidity.

There is a bias that intelligent technologies are an essential tool for success. Still, there are specific fundamental shifts and megatrends that impact the types of products and solutions that customers and consumers are expecting and how they impact the customer experience.

Economies are becoming more circular, and manufacturers need to consider how they use their equipment and how to disassemble equipment and how to reuse it. Most consumers want to know precisely where components come from and what conditions the employees work under. They want environmentally friendly processes, materials, fair wages, and work conditions, and the product.

The continued rise in megacities is a second factor driving the need for smart cities and solutions and equipment to intelligently and sustainably manage energy, water, and waste. The need for sustainable solutions drives the demand for innovative equipment and solutions for energy generation, storage, and energy-efficient products.

This means that manufacturers must always be innovating to keep up with the latest trends. The cloud is the primary enabler for companies to do that. A July 2018 study by Forrester Consulting notes that 95% of discrete manufacturers believe that moving end-to-end processes or business processes to an industry cloud would significantly improve their ability to digitally transform their entire ecosystem. Manufacturers realize that meeting customer expectations in this new digital economy requires transformation and collaboration beyond their enterprise.

In that same study, 99% of innovative manufacturers felt it was critical that the software powering their business processes integrates across an end-to-end value chain in an industry cloud. The study conclusion is that the ability to move end-to-end processes to the cloud is the next logical step for digital transformation.

The move is toward an industry cloud that enables intelligent enterprise. The commissioned study defines the industry cloud as a platform and software solution that allows cloud adoption for a specific industry. It includes an industry’s end-to-end processes, an innovation platform, and industry-specific business insights that would all be delivered in the cloud.

The purpose of developing a system of innovation is to make intelligent technologies and services (IoT, AI, machine learning, and predictive analytics) available to embed into both existing and new processes. It needs to have an intuitive and consistent user experience available on any device, in any place, and to provide relevant and in-context information across all applications. If the system can manage all business processes, customers, suppliers, employees, and products, it increases adoption and productivity.

New business processes in development will require this level of ongoing insight, innovation, and collaboration. Innovative manufacturing companies provide the machines and equipment bundled with services and consumables and charge for the outcome. This means they need to monitor the result at the customer site, assess risks, analyze historical data, quantify which customers would qualify, and make the data available for billing. This business model has impacts up and down the supply chain, including R&D, sales, finance, risk management, logistics, and after-service, making it essential that innovations are implemented across end-to-end processes and not in silos.

The building blocks for an intelligent enterprise in an industry cloud are in place. An industry cloud that is also an integrated suite, and a system of innovation or smart technologies, on a cloud platform allows manufacturers to move to the cloud while keeping their competitive edge. Manufacturers will adapt to new business requirements that may yet to be considered as they extend and create applications and apply technologies to remain agile and flexible. We will continue to see new processes evolve, and having end-to-end processes in the cloud will be crucial if manufacturers are to support digitalization effectively.

Dec 28 20
Christina Zumwalt
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