The Top 5 Benefits of Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing
Most people think of Microsoft as the undisputed king of the corporate desktop, and with good reason. Their ubiquitous Windows operating system owns a 73.72% share of the desktop market, after all. However, not very many people realize that Microsoft’s most lucrative business is its cloud division.
They are the second-largest provider of cloud infrastructure services — after Amazon’s AWS. It’s no accident that they’ve achieved that market position. They have done it by offering an array of sector-specific cloud offerings which are custom-tailored to suit industry needs. In recent years, Microsoft has made great headway with its Healthcare, Financial Services, and Retail cloud offerings as well.
Currently, Microsoft is on the verge of releasing its latest sector-specific cloud product. It is called Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing. Like its brethren, it is chock-full of industry-specific features and benefits that should catapult it to the top of the market. To elaborate, here are the top five benefits of Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing.
1. Increased Visibility Into Complex Manufacturing Processes
One of the biggest challenges modern manufacturers face lies in managing the sheer scale and complexity of their operations. Many must coordinate disparate workflows spread across multiple facilities and assembly lines to end up with the finished goods their customers require. Any delays or inefficiencies in a single part of such an operation can prove disastrous.
Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing offers a single point of management that connects to all of those moving parts. It gives managers unprecedented visibility into what’s happening within their complex manufacturing processes. That enables increased productivity, efficiency, and quality control — all without compromising worker safety, regulatory compliance, and privacy. In short, it’s like a digital conductor for a manufacturer’s orchestra.
2. Industry-leading Partner Integrations
Another massive benefit of Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing is the fact that it includes a vast number of partner integrations that extend its functionality. It’s something that only Microsoft — with its deep worldwide business relationships — can bring to the table in the manufacturing technology space. At the time of this writing, some of the key partners offering technology integrations for the platform include:
- SAS – analytics solutions to improve quality and yield
- Rockwell Automation – industrial IoT integration
- Blue Yonder – supply chain planning and operations
- ABB Ability™ – energy and asset management
Those are just the beginning. Microsoft maintains an app library containing thousands of solutions that manufacturers can use to create the perfect feature set for their needs. It makes Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing infinitely extensible and capable of handling anything that manufacturing businesses can throw at it.
3. Enabling Supply Chain-wide Collaboration
The Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing platform also promises benefits for manufacturers that extend well beyond the confines of the operations under their direct control. That’s because it also works to improve operational efficiency by facilitating data connections with external supply chain execution and ERP systems. This makes it possible for business partners at every level of the supply chain to coordinate their efforts to a higher degree than would be possible otherwise. It’s the perfect complement to the just-in-time manufacturing model.
For example, it can provide a component supplier with real-time information about a manufacturer’s part inventory and the speed at which those parts get depleted. That would allow them to adjust their processes to ensure that a steady and precise supply of those parts reaches the manufacturer exactly when they’re needed. It would also help logistics partners to plan for delivery capacity and improve last-mile services based on the manufacturer’s projected output — thus reducing bottlenecks in order fulfillment.
4. Support for Digital Twins and Process Modeling
In the past, manufacturers had a limited ability to test out proposed production processes. They’d instead have to get a process up and running and then make and test changes to improve outcomes. Additionally, every time a new production process became necessary, the steps would repeat. However, today the introduction of IoT sensors and other smart manufacturing technology has changed all of that. It has created real-time data streams that manufacturers can use to make more informed decisions throughout all of the process design phases.
Critically, Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing supports the creation and use of digital twins — functioning virtual models of real-world systems — to aid in future process design. Using digital twins, manufacturers can test out proposed changes to production lines and model their outcomes using real data. Or they can create digital representations of new assembly lines, factory layouts, or equipment configurations to test before spending any money on implementation. The result is less waste and a shorter path from proposal to production, both of which lead to improved business outcomes.
5. Drives Workforce Transformation
Last but not least, Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing provides businesses with a centralized hub to connect workers with the latest digital productivity tools. Working in concert with Microsoft Teams and by operationalizing data from manufacturing processes, it’s possible to empower frontline workers with the knowledge they need to excel in their roles. It can provide floor managers with complete visibility into operations so they can make informed personnel decisions and free up line workers to focus on high-value tasks while letting automation handle the rest.
The platform can also serve as a hub for training, employee engagement, and new-hire onboarding. By bringing real-world operations data into employee development processes, manufacturers can help improve productivity by modeling training materials on their most productive workers. They can also help employees to share knowledge with one another to organically spread useful skills and job-related information. Plus, they can shorten the time it takes to get new hires up to speed on their roles — which helps to optimize labor spending.
A Valuable Addition to the Manufacturer’s Arsenal
The bottom line is that there aren’t many aspects of manufacturing that Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing won’t have a positive impact on. The five benefits detailed above are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s a powerful and flexible platform that integrates well with existing technologies and extends their utility. It also helps manufacturers to knit their disparate systems together into a more efficient whole. In a sector that is known for technology vendor lock-in, those are qualities that are sure to draw attention once the platform launches to the public.
Here at Outsource IT, we’ll be keeping a close eye on how Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing continues to develop. As the platform draws closer to a public release, we’ll continue to provide updates to our clients in the manufacturing sector to help them assess their needs and identify ways that the platform might help them achieve their business goals. Of course, existing clients and other manufacturers who’d like to learn more about Microsoft’s upcoming cloud offering can contact an Outsource IT account manager at their convenience and we’ll be more than happy to discuss it at length..