Cloud computing is the way the business world is heading and the manufacturing sector is no different. More and more companies are seeking the benefits cloud computing provides and realising its increasing potential to facilitate more efficient business transactions.
Firstly, let us consider what cloud-based software actually is. It is essentially software that can be accessed via any internet-capable device. The software is hosted by a third party over the internet providing unmatched access and availability. Now that we have ascertained what it is, in this article we review how cloud-based software is able to serve the purposes of a manufacturing business.
Gone are the days where companies or individuals must buy expensive software packages that come with only a certain number of installations and a finite ‘best-before date’ before they are rendered outdated and not fit for purpose. Cloud-based software allows users to ‘rent’ the software from the provider. This means that there is no need for a significant commitment up front if the company is unsure about how the software will serve their needs or which particular package they may require. It also means that expensive set up equipment and processes are unnecessary as the software is accessible and usable from any internet-capable device.
Support and Maintenance
Cloud-based software hosted by a third party usually comes with IT support and maintenance. The effect of this is that the company no longer needs their own in-house tech support department who exist simply to support all computing from the back end. Often there are agreements in place when a business subscribes to a cloud-based software that any updates and support will be the responsibility of the provider. This not only saves money but also a massive amount of time and angst when things start to go haywire.
We have already eluded to the fact that cloud-based software systems can be accessed by any mobile device, however, it is worth carefully considering the implications of this. It means that even if a staff member is over on the opposite side of the world at a conference for example, the software and therefore company operations, can be accessed and worked on. Distance is no longer an issue because businesses can keep and eye on how their manufacturing business is tracking through long-haul flights and differing time zones. If a manufacturing company has multiple sites, including some that are quite remote, as soon as a sale is made, the common software system can be updated to reflect this which ensures that inventory stock levels in the common warehouse are adjusted in real-time and can be managed effectively.
Forecasting and Inventory Management
The enhanced accessibility of cloud-based software systems that allows for accurate and real-time updates also applies to inventory stock. If the quantities in the warehouse are consistently updated throughout the day as stock is sold to customers at all the company sites, then it far easier to grasp an understanding about how much is being sold altogether and therefore how much should be manufactured or ordered to fulfil customer demand. Alternatively, this also means that stock can also be kept to a safe minimum which serves to eliminate unnecessary storage costs and the risk of product spoiling before it is sold. Without real-time updates and accurate inventory stock values, it is impossible to accurately predict how much product should be manufactured or bought to supply customers.
The ability to have your company data hosted by a third party off-site acts as a safety net. If something was to happen and data was lost, the provider should have back ups of all their customers’ data in the cloud and therefore, nothing is ever lost or beyond the point of repair. Traditionally, a stipulation of quality management was to retain hardcopy records for a specified amount of time and to have copies located off-site in a secure location should an incident should occur.
Enhanced Customer Experience
So much of what manufacturers do is to enhance the customer experience. Cloud-based software can indirectly enhance the customer experience by facilitating the collection of real-time inventory data. This means that when a customer goes to order something by phone, email or the website, the availability of the product is immediately attainable and accurate.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.