While small manufacturers have processes and systems which are manual — and labor and time intensive — this business model must evolve to stay efficient and competitive. As a result, small businesses are integrating a range of technologies to optimize the resources they have, which is where cloud computing comes in.
Small manufacturers and specialized fabricators are using cloud computing in surprising ways. The technology is allowing them to view their company comprehensively so they can keep track of every aspect of their operations.
Cloud Computing for Small Manufacturers
According to the National Association of Manufacturers , the vast majority of firms in the United States are small. Of the 251,774 manufacturing firms in 2015, all but 3,813 firms could be classified as small businesses — a total of 248,000 firms in all.
So how can cloud computing help these small manufacturers innovate?
As more of the processes small businesses use become automated and connected, any downtime will be costly. When a system is deployed on premises, the capital and operational expenditure are high. With cloud computing, virtually all of the IT can be hosted remotely.
This ensures your system will always be up and running because cloud providers have multiple redundant systems. And if there is a disaster at your facility, business continuity solutions will have you up and running right away by replicating your IT environment.
According to the 2017 Propel Manufacturing Cloud Survey , 60% of the respondents said business agility rose dramatically because of cloud adoption and it was among the top cloud benefits for the year.
Agility is extremely important for manufacturers because the industry as a whole is in a constant flux. The price of supplies, shipping, customer delays and more play a role. With cloud ERP and MRP (enterprise resource planning and material requirement planning), operations can run effortlessly with complete visibility of the entire process, from raw supply to delivery of completed product to the customer.
Tracking and Monitoring
One of the biggest challenges small manufacturers with manual processes face is tracking and monitoring the progress of different projects. With cloud computing, the performance of multiple production processes can be tracked and monitored to ensure an accurate delivery to the customer.
This becomes even more important when there are complex product lines with many different configuration options. By integrating real-time cloud-based ERP solutions, records can be kept with greater accuracy and monitored so mistakes are not made in the manufacturing process
As any manufacturer will tell you, every project is a team effort. With cloud computing, you can bring everyone in your team together no matter where they are.
Cloud collaboration solutions can bring teams as small as two people or as large as hundreds together and make them accessible to resolve problems instantly. Whether these are suppliers, engineers, the production team or delivery personnel, they can all chat or video conference on a single platform on a local or global scale.
Affordable IT Cost
An on-premises IT installation is expensive, even for large manufacturers. The maintenance, upgrades, and repairs are especially cost prohibitive for small manufacturers who would rather focus on their core competencies.
Cloud computing removes all of these responsibilities and investments while providing the latest applications, upgrades — and enterprise-grade security.
Supply Chain Integration
Even small manufacturers source the raw and fabricated materials they need from many different suppliers around the world. Having a complete view of the network supplier, producer, logistic, and distribution channels in one integrated cloud solution makes it possible to view, manage and control how your organization sources these materials.
A fully integrated supply chain system allows small manufacturers to always see where the supplies they need are at any given time. This means manufacturing and delivery times can be met with more accuracy.
Faster Cycle Times
When an order is generated, there’s always a danger data may be entered incorrectly. This can include everything from product configuration to price to quotes, payment information, delivery addresses and more. If these mistakes are not caught in time, each can cost you money as well as damage to your reputation.
Using cloud-based automated pricing, quoting and customer approval workflows will ensure your orders are accurate so your cycle times are as efficient as they can be.
The National Association of Manufacturers says the cost of federal regulations falls disproportionately on small manufacturers, at a cost of 2.5 times  more for firms with fewer than 50 employees.
Cloud-based compliance solutions can keep track of the cataloging and reporting required to comply with local, state and federal regulations.
Cloud-based applications can be used to track the quality of each process within a small manufacturer’s firm. From the time the raw material arrives all the way to the final product, each process can be analyzed and reported to ensure the company’s quality control systems are followed.
With the real-time capability of cloud-based applications, mistakes can be caught as they happen on the production line. For small firms, this translates to huge savings and less waste of valuable materials.
Improved Customer Experience
Customer experience has become the great differentiator in today’s digital ecosystem. Cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) solutions manage the entire customer journey on a single platform.
This allows businesses to quickly address any issues a customer might have by accessing all of the customer’s interaction with the company immediately.
Cloud computing represents a technology platform which enables smart manufacturing for large and small firms alike.
With the right cloud solutions in place, manufacturing firms will increase operational efficiency, reduce costs, speed up the innovation and cycle times of new products, accelerate time-to-market and streamline the collaboration process across the value chain.
This, of course, will require the right service provider and solution in place to make all the pieces fit. For more on cloud solutions for your small manufacturing, contact Meylah  today.
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