Canadian Manufacturing

Manufacturers find cost savings in cloud computing

Microsoft initiative to help companies adopt more advanced technologies



HANNOVER, GERMANY—More manufacturers are making use of network computer services, a process known as “cloud computing,” but they need more help adopting these new technologies, according to a recent survey by Microsoft.

Companies said the biggest benefit of cloud computing is lowering the cost of optimizing infrastructure, followed by efficient collaboration across geographies, and the ability to respond quickly to business demands.

“The survey shows current cloud computing initiatives are targeted at cost reduction, but a growing number of forward-looking companies are exploring new and innovative business capabilities uniquely delivered through the cloud,” said Sanjay Ravi, managing director of Microsoft’s worldwide discrete manufacturing industry.

“Manufacturers are exploring ways to improve product design with social product development, enhance visibility across multiple tiers in the value chain, and create new business models and customer experiences based on smart devices connecting to the cloud,” he said.

But the survey also found 47 per cent of global manufacturing companies said there’s a need to better integrate business systems with collaboration tools.

More than half said there should be more collaboration between manufacturing products and services providers, IT providers, systems integrators and in-house business analysts.

“Globalization has fragmented industry value chains, making them more complex and unable to quickly respond to increased competition and shorter product lifecycles,” Ravi said.

As a result of these rapid changes in technology, manufacturers are looking for guidance on how to best plan and deploy these technologies in line with their business strategies, Ravi says.

Microsoft is planning to do that with a new project, called the Reference Architecture Framework for Discrete Manufacturers Initiatives (DIRA). It will focus on integrating processes, extending the network to more companies globally and connecting smart devices to the cloud.

“We expect this architecture to lever an improved interoperability information flow between the shop floor and the enterprise functions, as well as increase efficiency between enterprise systems and enterprises throughout the supplier network,” said Ralf-Michael Franke, CEO Industrial Automation Systems, Siemens, one of the project partners.

Microsoft is also partnering with other industry solution vendors and systems integrators from the manufacturing sector, including Apriso Corp., Camstar Systems Inc., ICONICS Inc., Rockwell Automation Inc., Siemens MES and Tata Consultancy Services Ltd.

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