There is little doubt that digital technologies now play a central role in modern manufacturing. A recent study from management consulting firm Accenture found that such technologies could add £1.06 trillion in GDP to the world’s top 10 economies by 2020. Chief amongst these technologies is cloud computing.

Cloud brings some pretty obvious and immediate wins to the manufacturing industry. Increased data storage, scalability, fast roll-out and reduced costs are often quoted as the headline gains. But how do these benefits translate into better labour productivity on the factory floor?

Connecting all the dots in real-time

Cloud gives manufacturers instant access to resources that could previously only be stored locally and accessed manually. It also enables a new level of connected intelligence across the business and supply chain.

For example, when Mestec’s client GTK recently opened a manufacturing plant in Romania, the firm was able to get up and running with its existing factory floor solution at the new overseas operation in under 15 minutes. The Mestec cloud architecture enabled GTK to instantly share its UK Mestec instance with the Romanian team and users were set up remotely. Similarly, the performance of the Romanian plant was immediately accessible to UK management team through standard dashboards and data analytics

According to GTK: “The Mestec solution gives us visibility and control over the remote site from the UK without having a physical presence – that’s critical for us. We can monitor and benchmark productivity while continuing to schedule accurately.”

By establishing connections between the plant floor and the wider ecosystem surrounding the business, a deeper level of intelligence is possible. With immediate access to data from across the business, decision makers can quickly assess bottlenecks in productivity and react to the changing needs of the business.

Understanding big data on a small budget

The world of analytics has evolved faster than perhaps any other business-focused digital technology; and cloud has served as the primary catalyst in this evolution. Large scale data analytics was simply not possible a few short years ago, unless you had very deep pockets. As Colin Masson, Microsoft Global Industry Director for Manufacturing and Distribution, says: “It wasn’t so long ago that you needed big computers, big budgets, and big brains to do big data.”

Thanks to cloud-based data analytics, even small manufacturers can now benefit from enterprise-grade business intelligence tools for a modest monthly fee with no up-front costs.

Key to enabling data analytics within the manufacturing environment is automated capture of detailed, real-time data from the shop floor, with no manual intervention or re-entry. Once data has been captured, the world is your analytics oyster.

Critically, cloud-based tools provide a single version of the truth. Instead of managing a plethora of spreadsheets that individuals have customised with their own interpretation of labour KPIs, for example, your management dashboard is dynamically linked to a shared database that is always up to date.

Worker satisfaction

The most successful cloud platforms have found ways to simplify complex tasks, focusing on user experience through streamlined and intuitive interfaces.

Ease of use is key to deploying any IT system on the shop floor. Mestec operators use barcode readers or touchscreens to trigger events, such as starting or finishing a task. The system logs the event, time, operator’s identity and all other relevant information – such as any difficulties experienced – before storing the data in the cloud-hosted database.

Providing workers with accessible and intuitive systems increases output, improves worker engagement, increases employee satisfaction which in turn boosts productivity. Furthermore, sharing real-time performance information with operators enables them to benchmark themselves and take ownership of their performance, which helps manufacturers raise productivity across the factory.

Better utilisation of internal resources

Cloud computing shifts the burden of IT infrastructure maintenance from the business to provider. This leaves your talented IT professionals free to exploit much higher value-add opportunities. In fact, when implemented as a fully-managed cloud-based solution, Mestec requires no specialised local IT support other than reliable internet access.

Cloud computing is at the core of the Industry 4.0/Smart Factory revolution. It is the most important enabling technology for interoperability between people and machines, and is paving the way for the future of manufacturing.

To explore how our Mestec cloud-based system can help you make better decisions across your manufacturing operations, please call us on +44 (0)1344 535120.