What sets leading manufacturers apart? Ever since the very first production lines were formed, it has all been a matter of connections. The more connections you can make between your people, processes, machines, and products, the more profitably you can produce a high-quality product.
Henry Ford knew it. That’s why he formed his vision for a fully integrated factory in which he and his decision-makers would have total control over every aspect of production. When Ford completed his River Rouge Complex in 1928, it was the largest integrated factory in the world.
Today, connected manufacturing builds on that heritage. It’s an approach that enables present-day manufacturers to use cloud computing, mobility, analytics, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) in harmony to gain insights that lead to faster, more agile, more cost-effective production.
But just how much is connected manufacturing making inroads on today’s manufacturing processes? Are companies really embracing this approach and achieving actual benefits, or is it all still pie in the sky?
To answer questions like these, Plex recently completed our annual survey of more than 150 manufacturers and published our results in The 2017 State of Manufacturing Technology Report.
As always, we gathered information about how manufacturers are using technology to drive business and innovation. Among our many findings, two in particular stand out:
● Cloud computing is indisputably a key to lowering costs and maintaining the ability to innovate.
● Although everyone thinks the Fourth Industrial Revolution is “coming,” they’re wrong: Plex customers demonstrate every day that it’s already here.
Cloud Computing Is the Foundation for Connected Manufacturing
For decades, it was only the largest enterprises that could gain access to the most powerful manufacturing technology. The cloud has leveled the playing field. Among our survey respondents, an overwhelming 97 percent said that cost reduction was a somewhat or very important component of their cloud deployments. So there’s no longer any question that the cloud is bringing the best technology within reach of small and midsized companies.
But moving to the cloud isn’t just about saving money. An equally impressive 96 percent of respondents cited connectivity as an important or very important benefit of moving to the cloud.
The cloud is cheaper than yesterday’s technology. The cloud also enables greater connectivity. It’s no surprise, then, that manufacturers of all sizes see the cloud as their new foundation for connecting processes to people, suppliers, and customers—and for driving business growth.
Cloud Computing Helps Manufacturers to Continue to Innovate
Throughout the manufacturing industry, the build-store-sell model is no longer sustainable. Companies in all sectors are shifting towards more collaborative, just-in-time manufacturing models. Why? Because in our small, ultra-connected world, customers have everything they want at their fingertips—and so demand is getting harder and harder to predict.
But rather than waving a white flag, manufacturers are seeing this as an opportunity to innovate, and they’re using the cloud as their platform. In our survey, 98 percent of respondents told us cloud-based systems help them maintain continuous innovation. This new technology is clearly helping them address one of the biggest challenges of our day: more than 70 percent of respondents reported that the cloud has enhanced their ability to manage ever-changing customer demand.
Manufacturers Are Already Putting Connected Technologies to Good Use
Are manufacturers actually connecting computers to machines to give their human decision-makers the kind of visibility and shop floor control Henry Ford could only dream of? This is an area where we’re starting to see some very promising momentum.
From consumer devices to robotics, there’s seemingly no end to the kinds of technology that manufacturers can plug into their networks to increase the productivity of machines and human workers alike. And thanks to cloud technology, all of these components of IIoT can be measured, with data stored in one central place for use in sophisticated analysis.
More than 50 percent of our survey respondents have already used cloud technology to improve their machine integration, so we’re clearly beyond the tipping point there. And 74 of respondents have improved their connectivity with mobile and personal devices through the cloud.
Get the 2017 State of Manufacturing Technology Report
These are just a few of the findings from our recent survey. If you’d like to learn more about what’s happening in connected manufacturing—and read real-life case studies of how Plex customers are already putting this technology to good use—read the 2017 State of Manufacturing Technology Report.