One of the key technologies of Industry 4.0 is the cloud. It may seem like a simple development, but its impact on manufacturing has been monumental.
It ushered in the era of Software as a Service (SaaS), and made it possible for manufacturers to work on the same files from various sites using just a network connection and a browser. No need to run software on-site, no servers, no upgrades, and no maintenance.
Today, cloud computing can easily handle what on-prem hardware used to, and it’s enabling manufacturers to enter the next industrial era.
SaaS solutions allow manufacturers to work on the same file from different sites
Like the first three industrial revolutions (which were catalyzed by steam power, electricity, and computers, respectively) Industry 4.0 represents a massive shift in how manufacturers operate.
In manufacturing, it is driven by a combination of SaaS, the Internet of Things (IoT), and artificial intelligence (AI). Together, these technologies create “smart factories” where sophisticated sensors convey real-time operational data that can be analyzed by both people and powerful AI tools.
In other words, Industry 4.0 will lead to operations that can sense when a maintenance issue is likely to occur, or a process is losing efficiency, or a supply chain problem will affect throughput. The possibilities are vast, all of which can help manufacturers address issues proactively, gain valuable new insight into operations, and reach new heights of efficiency.
Like IoT and AI, SaaS is a key pillar of Industry 4.0, and a big percentage of manufacturing decision-makers consider SaaS important to digital transformation.
SaaS delivers important benefits for manufacturers, many of which reinforce one another.
With SaaS, implementing new manufacturing software is as easy as completing a subscription form. There are no servers to buy or store or power. There are no integrations to manage or troubleshoot. There are no on-site costs, period.
As an added benefit, your IT team is now free from all of these custodial tasks and much better able to guide your digital transformation efforts as you plan for all of the opportunities that Industry 4.0 offers.
Moving forward with new enterprise software is not only costly, it’s hard to undo. Many companies have felt the sting of paying for a huge and complex rollout only to see demand drop or market conditions change, rendering the new software obsolete or unnecessary.
SaaS eliminates this risk because you’re only paying for what you’re actually using. You can scale up with a few clicks or scale back just as easily, with no risk of maintaining racks of servers you no longer need.
Ensuring network security is expensive and challenging. IT teams use specialized tools and techniques to keep systems and data safe from hackers and other threats. With SaaS, security is built into the subscription and is the responsibility of the SaaS provider. Most SaaS providers are better equipped to establish secure computing environments than the average manufacturer. They live and breathe data security because it is essential to their business and their reputation.
SaaS solutions are available anywhere with an Internet connection, so they allow manufacturers to handle a wide range of tasks remotely. This is particularly helpful for manufacturers with multiple production sites because you can easily review data and analytics from any site and make faster decisions no matter where you are. Remote access also allows conveniences like real-time notifications and team collaboration.
With the traditional approach, software upgrades were an expensive and disruptive process that manufacturers had to work around. With SaaS, updates happen continuously in the cloud and are virtually invisible. Manufacturers always have access to the latest features and tools as they become available without having to pause production.
With a generic desktop software, you're limited by your hardware. On the other hand, cloud-based software can provide scalability and offer as much processing power as your project requires. This eliminates a significant amount of time you spend waiting for your task to be processed.
Oqton's cloud-based Manufacturing OS facilitates tracking the end-to-end additive manufacturing workflow with complete MES capabilities
For organizations leveraging additive manufacturing technologies, a SaaS end-to-end solution is particularly advantageous.
A hugely important factor in manufacturing is repeatability. Organizations need to be able to reproduce the exact same part on multiple machines, at different locations and times, which requires tight control of numerous variables.
Additive manufacturing complicates repeatability because builds can be inconsistent. Many elements play a role in the build, starting from the machine setup, configuration, stability and even environment variables in the entire build process. Machine calibration can be tricky and time-consuming. The genealogy of metal powders may experience greater variability from one part to the next.
All of this means it can be challenging to ensure all parts are identical, and to get the right certifications that they meet specific characteristics.
With a cloud-based solution, a business can make two parts at two separate sites using the exact same file, in the exact same way, with the same required machine and material configuration, to ensure consistency and repeatability.
Even if you need to print a part again years after its last fabrication, they will be able to make it exactly the same way, with the same quality. And because is recorded in the same software, they will be able to account for everything that was manufactured on-demand and meet any traceability requirements.
Most important, end-to-end SaaS platforms make it possible to fully automate additive production, from orders and material management to planning, preparation, and output. As a result, you can expect to execute all process steps more consistently and greatly reduce the risk of human error.
As more manufacturers continue to adopt additive technologies into their workflow, it's important they have a manufacturing execution system that will allows them to keep track of all the new machines in their production, ensure repeatability and scale easily.
Oqton's cloud-based Manufacturing OS makes it simple for any organization, no matter the size, to track the end-to-end additive manufacturing workflow with complete MES capabilities. If you'd like to learn more about the Manufacturing OS, get in touch and request a demo.