The cloud is enabling a new era of modern manufacturing. It is helping manufacturers not only transform operations, supply chains, design and production processes, but also drive innovation, accelerate growth, and enhance the customer experience — all while lowering information technology (IT) costs. With the cloud playing an increasingly larger role in manufacturing, there has been an influx of workplace and productivity apps and tools designed to meet just about every need, blurring the lines between personal and work devices and programs. As a result, manufacturers, with their small, relatively flat IT structure, are challenged to keep track of all of the communication and collaboration tools employees use to perform their daily jobs.
Cloud-based enterprise communications apps and tools can play a positive role in business growth. Here are three reasons why manufacturers should consider a cloud-based communications system:
The Cloud Provides Manufacturers More Flexibility and Personalization
Considering the impact technology, the cloud and mobility bring to people’s personal lives, it’s no surprise employees want that same personalization and flexibility in the workplace. According to a recent study by Bluewolf, a global cloud consulting agency, enterprises should commit to mobile app personalization.
No matter how much research they do or how many demos they watch, the IT department simply doesn’t have as much insight into the types of tools end users need to do their jobs, especially when there are multiple domestic and international sites involved. For example, IT isn’t designing products, planning production or collaborating with suppliers, so they don’t have the same level of insight into the types of tools designers, engineers and planners require.
When employees, teams or various departments at a manufacturer decide on the technology they need to do their jobs, it increases personalization and productivity in the workplace. Allowing employees and teams to access the cloud and use the apps that meet their needs can improve efficiency, and enhance collaboration and work effectiveness both internally, as well as with suppliers and customers.
The Proliferation of Cloud-Based Communication Tools = the Proliferation of Data
Relying on the cloud for enterprise communications results in an endless supply of data. According to Mary Meeker’s 2017 Internet Trends report, the information created worldwide through apps is expected to grow by 25 percent over the next 20 years. It can be challenging for manufacturers to harness and collect insights from all the data created throughout the entire supply and value chain, but once they tap into it, they can leverage that data to drive real business outcomes. The cloud can streamline that process, providing a myriad of data at any moment, which can be incredibly valuable.
Manufacturing leaders can find answers to questions like: What’s happening in your manufacturing facilities? What are the key issues your customers are contacting you about? How can you monitor for purchasing trends to best serve your customers? How can you engage your employees to deliver enhanced supplier and customer relations? Where are your optimum sales opportunities? Collecting that data, but more importantly, sifting out what’s important from what’s just noise, can produce meaningful insights for the overall business. Manufacturers not only have the ability to sift through data and understand what happened in the past, but also to understand patterns and figure out what’s likely to happen in the future.
Silos are a Thing of the Past
The cloud is enabling manufacturers with new forms of communication and collaboration — both upstream with suppliers and downstream with customers. However, one ongoing concern about the cloud is the fact that many cloud-based apps and tools are disconnected, and siloed information is hard to access or share across departments or organizations, especially if companies are using on-premise communications systems rather than the cloud. It’s difficult to move your business forward and improve the topline if communications and collaboration are siloed and your customers and suppliers can’t reach you.
As we move forward, manufacturers should consider moving to a cloud-based unified communications and collaboration system that not only connects all distributed locations on a single platform, but also accommodates users’ preferences for effectively collaborating and sharing data. A highly reliable and available communications system combined with interoperability across team collaboration platforms and other apps will be essential to ensuring employees and teams can remain productive, efficient and compliant when engaging with suppliers and customers.
Manufacturers can take comfort in the benefits that come from the rise of apps in the enterprise and the ease of use the cloud provides. Between increased flexibility and personalization, the amount of data and the ability to interoperate, manufacturers can leverage the cloud and use it to their advantage.
Bryan Martin is Chairman of the Board and Chief Technology Officer at 8x8, Inc.