Cloud Manufacturing & The 4th Industrial Revolution
The manufacturing industry is undergoing a significant shift in technologies and capabilities. Cloud manufacturing is a key pillar in this exciting technological revolution, and we would like to explain why the cloud is fueling this industrial revolution.
We are currently at the start of the 4th industrial revolution.
For hardware businesses, this is an exciting time to be around. Technologies are making the process of manufacturing more accessible and affordable than ever before. It does not matter whether you are a big or small hardware business, the changes within the industry provide all hardware companies the opportunity to make better products faster.
This is not the first time such big changes have occured in the manufacturing industry. Radical shifts have taken place throughout human history. The first in modern day was in the 18th century when mechanization began to replace manual labor.
This was then followed by the technological revolution, from the early 20th century through the first world war, which brought electrical power to manufacturing. This allowed for high-volume production and labor division.
Then came the 3rd shift in the 1970s, when automation entered the scene through the use of electronics. The introduction of robotics also began during this era, increasing the process of production, and reducing the cost of labor by enabling repeatable tasks.
Now, the manufacturing industry has entered a 4th revolution, fueled by digitization.
A key pillar in this new industrial revolution is cloud manufacturing. Cloud manufacturing uses the principles of cloud computing to connect a diverse set of machines in factories. It offers on-demand access to manufacturing services with pricing on a pay-per-use basis. This allows hardware businesses to skip buying, owning, and maintaining physical machines on their shop floors, because it provides them with access to core manufacturing services (such as CNC turning, CNC milling, 3D-printing, sheet-metal laser-cutting, and many more) at the click of a button from anywhere in the world.
Cloud manufacturing has also been developed to cover all aspects of the product life cycle. It can be used during the design stage, low or high volume production phases, and during the ramp-up stage. This is important, as it allows hardware companies to be completely serviced at every stage of the production process, as they grow or adjust to changes in demand.
Cloud manufacturing as a concept was first proposed by a group of academics led by Prof. Bo Hu Li and Prof. Lin Zhang in 2009 in a paper called “Cloud Manufacturing: A New Service-Oriented Networked Manufacturing Model”. Since the introduction of the concept as a nascent technology, more than 800 hundred papers have been published on the topic. The thought leadership on this topic now highlights the holistic advancement of this new technology from concept to reality, and covers both macro topics like future trends in cloud manufacturing, and also more focused subjects such as scheduling and cybersecurity.
We are still in the early stages of cloud manufacturing, but you can already see the profound effects across the hardware industry. In fact, this could be a tipping point in how companies both big and small are making use of the cloud to develop better new products faster and at a lower cost.
Why is cloud manufacturing a key pillar of Industry 4.0?
Cloud manufacturing significantly broadens access to industrial technology, production capabilities, and development processes for hardware businesses. It fundamentally disrupts the way engineers make products, establishing a new paradigm for the hardware industry.
Cloud manufacturing further amplifies other technological shifts by enabling seamless access to new technologies available and bringing digitization and automation to the shop floor level. Local manufacturers have an immediate incentive to digitize in order to meet the global demand coming to them through this new technology. This is becoming the new standard and is an indispensable approach for attaining and servicing hardware clients.
Cloud manufacturing is being adopted by more and more businesses because of its ability to provide four key benefits: agility, elasticity, cost savings, and seamless global scaling.
Let’s take a closer look at these benefits:
The cloud gives hardware businesses the ability to produce a prototype in minutes with access to technologies and services that allow them to build on an as-needed basis, with just a few clicks. With this seamless access, hardware businesses can benefit from a wider variety of manufacturing services and capacities. A plethora of options gives them room to experiment with different processes and materials to enhance their products and production processes.
By using cloud manufacturing, hardware businesses are no longer bound to a single technology when it comes to making their products. The cloud gives them the opportunity to adjust or use newly available technologies at the click of a button. They’re no longer shackled to specific technologies due to lack of access or costly investments in their own machines. Hardware businesses are also provided with more opportunities to introduce design for manufacturability (DfMA) practices at the very early stage of their product’s life cycle.
This newfound agility, in turn, allows hardware businesses to launch their products to market faster than ever before.
With cloud manufacturing, hardware businesses no longer need to plan ahead and over-stock on resources to be able to meet future surges in demand. Instead, they can stock the optimal level of resources needed to operate and have access to all the necessary manufacturing resources that they require in the cloud. These resources can be easily modified based on their business needs.
One of the most revolutionary aspects of cloud manufacturing is its effect on costs. The high up-front costs associated with machinery and quality manufacturing are eliminated.
Previously, only high-volume hardware companies had access to the best manufacturing services in the world. Through the cloud, it does not matter if you are in the prototype, low-volume, or mass production stage—great manufacturing is available to you at the click-of-a button.
Cloud manufacturing also lowers the bar for hardware businesses in terms of capital investment. It allows them to trade capital expenses (such as machines and real estate) for variable expenses, giving them a way to pay only for the manufacturing services they consume. Variable expenses are much lower due to economies of scale, rather than having to build it yourself.
With cloud manufacturing, hardware businesses can scale their production seamlessly and expand their business globally in minutes. Adding a new assembly-facility, say in China, does not require building a whole new manufacturing plant, or developing a Chinese supplier network. The cloud offers access to global manufacturing services with a click. In other words, immediate access to quality manufacturing plants all over the world that are ready to meet their bespoke demands.
Why is the cloud so revolutionary?
The cloud is fueling a more powerful industrial revolution because it ultimately does one thing: democratizes manufacturing.
It levels the playing field and gives hardware businesses large and small more control over their future, leaving ingenuity and effort all that stand in the way of their prosperity.
This revolution is unlike the many before it because it opens more doors and provides access to more businesses. Manufacturing is no longer a closed group, but a place where anyone with a bright idea and some effort, can build a great product.
We are excited to be a contributor to this revolution at KREATIZE. Our service offering is designed to provide all hardware businesses with the capacity to take full advantage of these changes in the industry. If you are interested in joining us in our mission to fundamentally change the world of manufacturing, then please set up a meeting with a member of our team now.