By Conrad Leiva, MESA International Board Member and chair of MESA's Smart Manufacturing Working Group
Download the supplemental White Paper: Smart Manufacturing and Cloud Computing
Smart Manufacturing is not solely about optimizing production of goods, it is about creating positive value streams for everyone involved in the production process and creating valuable experiences and services for the end customer. Smart Manufacturing includes visibility and interoperability among systems, departments and partner companies, as well as a decentralized decision-making framework for the value chain. The endeavor encompasses suppliers and suppliers’ suppliers, as well as customers and customers’ customers.
- Embedding cloud service components. A manufacturer might start its cloud exploration small by leveraging some cloud services like credit card payment processing and traffic maps into a delivery scheduling application. For example, the IT department develops an application (app) that can be used by customers over the web to order goods and schedule pickup. Credit card payment can be offered to customers by embedding a cloud service into the internally developed app. Additionally, it can enable the customer to select different pickup locations sorted by drive time calculated based on current and planned driving conditions.
- Specialized analytics cloud service. Institutes like CESMII (Clean Energy Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute) are making analytical algorithms via their cloud platform available to small manufacturers that could not traditionally afford to develop their own algorithms internally. These algorithms and programs might be developed under research grants by students at participating universities to optimize parameters for specific high energy consuming processes. Manufacturers can integrate their machines and systems to this cloud platform to pass data and get analysis results back via APIs. Manufacturers can either leverage this capability and manually adjust machines or embed these APIs into integrated processes that automatically adjust machine parameters.
- Cloud service as a supplier connector. A progressive manufacturer was integrating suppliers of raw materials by asking them to connect directly to their supplier management system to send and receive EDI and other B2B standard messages as part of managing procurement processes. The manufacturer is now contemplating moving this data exchange with suppliers to the cloud in a new supplier data exchange hub eliminating the need for suppliers connecting directly to its internal supplier management system. With this PaaS model, part of their own custom IT solution could be transferred to cloud infrastructure and making the APIs available to their suppliers via the cloud.
- Distributed data collection validated using blockchain. Blockchain is a technology that can be weaved into a cloud computing architecture. Blockchain creates a distributed shared ledger for recording the history of transactions. It feels like one shared ledger, but it is stored in a distributed network of ledger holders in a system that is resistant to tampering. Blockchain can help create authenticated and verified transactions in the supply chain and data tied to a product unit that will be maintained by multiple parties and cannot be edited once recorded.