Thought Leadership

Supply Chains in the Sky: The Benefits of Adding Cloud Support

Manufacturers have been hearing about cloud systems for years, but many in the industry still rely on closed, in-house platforms for daily operations and forecasting.

Now may be the time to ditch those systems, though, as cloud platforms remain cheaper and offer better data storage and processing than what most manufacturers can build on their own.

Cloud has long been touted as a great cost saver, but the planning and optimization benefits it can provide manufacturing operations and supply chain management have become just as important.

Cloud isn’t the wave of the future; it’s the wave of right now.

Cloud SCP&O is really about making your operations better

ERP systems and forecasting tools contained within your own network are going to fall short when it comes to SCP&O (supply chain planning and optimization).

Alone and siloed, these systems cannot help you address questions around which key performance indicators best fit your business and may struggle to identify needs throughout your supply chain.

By connecting your systems to a cloud-based backbone, you allow for better integration of data from your partners and system touch-points in the management cycle. Information from specific points within your manufacturing process and along your supply chain can help you optimize routes, inventory levels, and sourcing.

Most existing ERP systems can judge performance from past events, but cloud integration can combine this Monday morning quarterbacking with forecast tools to provide a smarter look at future operations.

Build smarter, not just bigger

IT budgets across the board are getting larger, but they shouldn’t be pushed into systems that simply pull in more data and add it to existing piles. Now is the time for developing analytics for all of your CRM, ERP and other systems’ data.

The cloud is often a prerequisite of big data systems because storage and processing options that are cloud-based can scale up or down with your need, but don’t require you to pick up any new hardware.

Technologies like Hadoop and MapReduce have led to a wide range of analytics options specifically for supply chain and manufacturing processes. These programs are often built in a way that you can add new datasets directly to their analytics platforms, all managed and run through the cloud.

Real-time updating for real-time monitoring

Optimization of the manufacturing process and the subsequent supply chain are important steps to save money and time amid economic downturns and recoveries. Benchmarking the optimization process provides a guide to know if your plans are feasible and working, but it can take weeks, or months, to get some data back from vendors, partners, or even parts of your own operations.

Using systems linked by the cloud allows for real-time updating of your data. Having an automatic collection system in place gives you more time to fully process your data and reach results, while still supplying you with real-time snapshots of operations.

Manufacturing and logistics are subject to a wide range of regulations, economic constraints, and timing issues. Giving yourself more time to look at your optimization options makes it easier to ensure suggested routes and process changes are feasible, legal and smart.

No one wants to change a process based on an apples-to-oranges comparison that feels right to the gut but doesn’t play out well in the real world.

Dashboards are like ogres

In the “Shrek” films, we learned that ogres are like onions because they’ve got layers of complexity that aren’t initially apparent. Your dashboards are also like onions… or ogres.

Cloud systems are powerful, and smart, enough to add layers to your existing dashboards so that analytics and data management can be incorporated in real-time environments without interrupting your core data.

These allow you to share information across an end-to-end network so the beginning of your process can immediately be made aware of and react to issues at the end of your line, to prevent producing more than you can store or get out of the door.

There’s one final lesson to take away from the “Shrek” films for telling partners what your cloud dashboards can do: Not everybody likes onions, but everybody likes cakes and cakes have layers, so that might a better best analogy to use.

*Originally published at