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Home » Manufacturing » How cloud technology can drive efficiency and innovation in manufacturing

Greg Sloyer Ph.D

Global Industry Principal Manufacturing, Snowflake

For UK manufacturers, market conditions remain challenging. The ongoing impact of Covid-19, soaring energy and raw material prices and global supply-chain disruption have sent supply and demand on a rollercoaster ride.

Despite market turbulence, the digital transformation plans of UK manufacturers are forging ahead with a focus on investments that boost profit durability and innovation. Leaders are on a mission to build more resilience into their operations and identify new growth opportunities.

Navigating uncertainty

Many leaders see digital technologies as their best chance of achieving these goals — a view widely shared by their global peers. Cloud migrations and data-driven approaches to manufacturing set the foundation for such advancements, according to a report from industry body Make UK and global professional services giant PWC, Executive Survey 2022: Harnessing Agility and Resilience.

Based on a late 2021 survey of almost 230 UK manufacturing executives, 45% of leaders had made concrete plans to invest in automation, artificial intelligence (AI), additive manufacturing or other forms of digital technologies in 2022. A further 20% said they had plans to do so — if not in 2022, then in 2023. A similar proportion said plans were under consideration, but they had yet to come to a final decision. Only 15% of those surveyed had no plans to invest in digital technologies within the 2022/2023 time frame.

Move to the cloud

Many manufacturers are opting for public cloud services to help extend and optimise their IT infrastructure to improve visibility and business productivity. Cloud service provider Amazon Web Services (AWS) has over a million active global customers and is helping organisations of all sizes move to and thrive in the cloud by enabling them to increase agility, lower costs and accelerate innovation.

A Hackett Group study conducted in January 2022 shows that organisations who migrated to AWS from on-premises saw — on average — 20% infrastructure cost savings, a 66% increase in administrator productivity, a 43% lower time to market and a 29% increase in staff focus on innovation.

It’s all about speeding up the time elapsed from an issue surfacing to corrective action.

Big value in data

With the move to the cloud, data management becomes a significant opportunity for manufacturers. IoT and Big Data enable manufacturers to design, build, sell and service smart, connected products — from industrial equipment such as wind turbines to consumer goods such as electric cars and smart home appliances.

Once used by a customer, these products continue to report back to the manufacturer in a stream of data about their performance and condition. Data is coming from more sources than ever — including customers, supply chain partners, contract manufacturers, logistics providers and more.

The challenge is to jointly analyse the data and create a big picture of real-time situations, which enables partners to collaborate on effective responses — and in some cases, predict and mitigate adverse events before they even arise.

Data opportunity

The first goal when manufacturers tackle disruption is creating visibility. To do so, they need access to relevant data that identifies risks and potential breaks in the supply chain before they strike. It’s all about speeding up the time elapsed from an issue surfacing to corrective action.

Snowflake provides a cloud-agnostic platform to analyse and manage data securely, regardless of its format. Elastic scalability and performance enable manufacturers to cast the net wider and include more data from more diverse sources, boosting insights and leading to better decision-making.

The second goal is agility: the ability to spot a problem and to act on it quickly, based on an accurate understanding of the real-time situation. When hit by disruption, manufacturers can alter their plans quickly — perhaps by switching to alternate suppliers, using another material/part or adjusting delivery dates or routes. Meanwhile, data-sharing keeps business partners up to date, and they can simultaneously adjust course accordingly.

AWS and Snowflake enable manufacturers by providing advanced cloud solutions, near-infinite elastic scale, seamless cross-cloud data sharing and the ability to embed machine learning directly in the data cloud.

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