Forecast Calls for the Cloud

The move to the cloud

It is clear that the cloud has made its way to the consumer. Every time I shop at Amazon, do my banking or even search Google, I know I’m on the cloud. Even in my job, when I access, I am using the cloud. And most times, I’m not even aware of it. 

It’s very convenient, safe, and there's no installation or software maintenance required. These are issues I'm comfortable with due to my technical background, but not everyone has that level of comfort. And Cloud applications are making their way into our lives slowly but surely, whether we realize it or not.

For the manufacturing world, this move to the cloud has been slow to say the least, with “on-premise” applications being the more popular choice. According to a recent blog post at LNS Research, current “on-premise” applications for manufacturing operations are 70%+ of the applications. Compare this to <20% combined for applications on the cloud (hosted by third party, SaaS and hosted by a MOM Vendor).

This shouldn’t be surprising as in my career, manufacturers have dipped their toes in the water slowly on new technologies. From moving from Unix-based systems to upstart Microsoft Windows®, to bringing the Internet into the plant, to smart devices and tablets into the plant, these technologies all represented a step change in operations, but they have become more pervasive in the plant. 

The plant personnel of the future will be exposed and used to cloud environments coming into these new roles, so there is no doubt in my mind the cloud will be pulled through. We’re already facing a generation whose desktop and laptop usage is declining and smart device usage is rapidly increasing. So our next generation of plant personnel will be exposed to and used to these technologies.

Manufacturers are worried about their data. This is understandable as they contain great competitive advantages. And the recent security breaches at places like Target and Home Depot can’t make CIOs feel more confident. But all new technologies take time for adoption, and if executives can get assurance on their data safety as well as reduce IT costs while continuing to have operational excellence on their plant floors, we will see adoption pick up.

We at GE are making the cloud part of our plans. We feel this will make life for our customers easier as it will reduce their implementation and maintenance costs – costs we hear about all the time. It’s very hard for a plant to go down to upgrade software on the floor. There could be hundreds of machines that would require upgrades, configuration, and testing before bringing them back up. This is a big reason why manufacturers will wait to do upgrades for longer periods than we would like. But the reality is the time and effort to do this with physical software can be time consuming. We’re working with our customers to make their lives easier.

So the cloud is coming and the future is bright. One thing is for sure: when we look back in 10 years, we’ll see the cloud as part of our fabric.

What are your plans for the cloud?

Paul Adams

Paul has spent more than 20 years in manufacturing with GE’s Intelligent Platforms business, focusing on product development. His deep industry experience comes from countless calls, meetings and visits to manufacturers around the globe to help solve their business challenges. Today, he works in Global Professional Services, which allows him to continue working with GE’s manufacturing customers at a more downstream function. Wonder what challenges he’s helping manufacturers solve today? Connect with Paul on LinkedIn.

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