Complexity is increasing every day because customers expect more smart, connected and integrated products. As product complexity increases, so does the way in which companies design and manufacture them.

Because of greater market volatility and the accelerating pace of change and innovation, businesses must often respond quickly to changes in their market conditions. They need to track market data, use the information to sense changes early and take actions to respond quickly.

The next step forward into the future and meeting these challenges is digital transformation and leveraging or utilising the connectedness of cloud technologies to turn complexity into a competitive advantage. 

Distribution and the as-a-service model

The pandemic has accelerated the realisation of more remote and distributed supply chains, employees and users. Having tools cloud-ready and connected for access and flexibility of use across these distributed sets of users within a company and across a supply chain is imperative. 

A SaaS solution provides accessibility, scalability and flexibility to make standardised technology available for these distributed users. The as-a-service model is the natural next step.

SaaS technology tools and cloud capabilities enable and build connectedness, providing fluidity across domains where real value in the insights is used to optimise the product and/or process.

On-premises vs cloud

The benefits of a cloud-based architecture versus an on-premises one are monumental.

Typically on-premises architecture features an application-centric world, rather than a data-centric world. Every individual user has application centric access to the technology, which means – in the best-case scenario – the user has an installed application on their desktop and they fetch data from wherever the data lies, work on that data, and then push that data back. Oftentimes, though, users have an application centric view with data islands. This unintended isolation causes massive data management headaches because it’s locked into locally installed applications.

On cloud architecture, users operate in a data-centric environment. The single source of truth is in centrally-maintained data. Each user comes in through a browser window and operates with a set of tools approaching the data from a certain perspective.

The connectedness is more inherent and natural than on premises, which is more about working in files. Unstructured databases, like those used in cloud computing software, is the end goal. Yet it doesn’t stop there.

Manufacturing companies can have the data structure and files on a cloud-based system with access management creating a controlled single source of truth type of data access without fundamentally changing the data architecture. They can have several different domains with different schemas all interacting and working together.

Overall, having the file structured data on the cloud with the right access management simplifies the problem of data management substantially.

Openness and cloud in the ecosystem

What about sharing data back-and-forth within the supply chain? On-premises data centres might look something like the cloud, but problems arise with access from outside stakeholders because the data is isolated and behind a firewall. A company must contend with how much access to give and how it impacts the design and engineering of the product.

Companies will even design around that problem by basically stripping out all the IP so the supply chain works with a shell of a design. Still, the main problem is that data needs to move from one on-premises machine to another. The different users might not be in the same trust circles creating layer-after-layer of burdens that affect the project and turn into costly redesigns.

Through access management on the cloud, the users come and go as needed, IP is managed much better, data is not moving around anywhere and activity can be tracked. 

Fluidity across functional departments

The pandemic accelerated the reality of remote workers, especially in terms of evolving work/life balance and the perks that companies offer to their employees to both work more efficiently and as a recruiting tool to attract the best talent.

The need to support both remote employees as well as a workforce that has an increasingly greater composition of contract-based labour is extremely important.

This means a variety of teams are doing the same function or similar functions around a project presenting a challenge of working on a standard form of data. The transitions of moving from one on premises application to another on premises application can be burdensome.

Why a successful digital transformation needs people

Building a community of workers

There are some communities which are just natural within the process of your product lifecycle. With one single team, for example, you have a community naturally collaborating with each other using the same tools and connected technologies.

Take one step back and there are different teams, maybe different functional teams, within the same company. This too is another community, which may have challenges when it comes to collaboration.

Further back is collaboration within a supply chain. How does the entire ecosystem interact in a productive and efficient way?

The answer is enabling easier communication, collaboration and participation in these communities through more connected, collaborative technology, such as cloud.

Defining the future

Industries are expanding their possibilities. For instance, the automotive industry isn’t just building cars but evolving into mobility companies. They are thinking differently by creating an agile product roadmap and securing core technologies that enable autonomous driving.

Legacy automakers are switching to more robust, flexible, open and integrated solutions. Cloud-enabled technology is proving to cut development time by almost half because their teams can collaborate more efficiently and their suppliers are part of an open ecosystem sharing a single source of truth.

Imagine accessing a secure, software solution that fosters innovation. SaaS is how today’s leading companies are building the products of tomorrow.

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