You are a CIO recently hired by a mid-size manufacturing company that produces widgets. The company hired you to help guide them to implement a Manufacturing Execution System. At first, you thought this would be a relatively easy decision, so you put out a RFQ (request for quote) and see which of the on-premises, traditional vendors would get back to you. Soon you start seeing responses from Cloud vendors and realize that in a world where MES has options, this will not be an easy decision.
After looking into some of the quotes and features of a MES Cloud-app-based implementation, you take the idea to the board. Some of the board members did not seem to understand the concept and others had concerns about data security. After some
discussion the board asks you to look more into MES-Cloud-app security, network stability, and cost before making a final decision.
Security is one of the top concerns for MES Cloud applications. There is a generalized lack of trust rather than a fact-based analysis of the Cloud app’s actual security capabilities. “To date, there have been very few security breaches in the public cloud — most breaches continue to involve on-premises data center environments” (source). Cloud providers know the mistrust in their services and understand the risks to businesses whose service they offer. To counteract these risks, Cloud vendors invest heavily in their security technology and brain power. However, it is best to not assume every Cloud vendor has top notch security. Ask for a demo of potential Cloud vendors’ security measures before investing.
While there may be doubt about the Cloud’s ability to fully secure information, some view Cloud platforms as more secure than on-premise platforms. This could be true for many smaller plants who do not have a fully fledged IT team and infrastructure in place. If your plant cannot make the necessary security investments or you notice that your security investments may be lacking, Cloud may be a better option for you.
If you decide to invest in a Cloud implementation, square aware or be aware of who has the primary responsibility for protecting your plant’s data. According to one survey, more than 60% of respondents whose organizations currently transfer sensitive or confidential data to the Cloud believe the Cloud provider has primary responsibility for protecting that data and 22% believed the Cloud consumer to be responsible.
Network stability is the second-most concern and rightly so. If the production line is down for only a few minutes, hundreds of thousands of dollars can be lost.
Cloud-native applications on the vendor’s platform are able to provide better and more consistent performance than applications moved to that Cloud. So, if you are investing in a Cloud vendor’s pre-built, Cloud-native MES applications, performance should not be as high a concern as moving applications not built for that Cloud space.
Keep in mind that, with any cloud-native features where applications are localized for specific cloud platforms, the trade off is portability for performance. If you write cloud-native features in your application to support performance stability, that application will have to be modified when it’s moved to another cloud platform, or perhaps brought on-premises. This is a cost and risk that needs to be considered before committing to a specific flavor of cloud computing (source).
When planning your implementation, consider your current network capacity versus the amount of network load from the MES Cloud apps. The best way to do this is by creating benchmark figures in a Test environment to simulate how much capacity will be required. Do extensive testing and upgrading to the network to handle any latencies, so that network stability concerns are resolved.
The biggest argument for doing a Cloud deployment is that they are cheaper than traditional MES implementations. The business would not have to purchase hardware or invest in people to manage those systems internally. “The top use of cloud is driving cost efficiencies” and executives feel that implementing the Cloud has helped them reduce costs, according to the KPMG Cloud Survey Report.
While the price of using the public Cloud has gone down, the cost of Software as a Service has not. It may seem like the cheaper option to pick and choose your MES Cloud apps but this may not be the case in the long term for a Cloud implementation. When deploying a MES Cloud solution, make sure to budget for more than the upfront costs.
Some long-term costs associated with Cloud application implementations are maintenance, upload and download fees, and labor fees associated with the deployments past Go Live. “People think there are no labor costs [with the cloud], but as you scale up [to] handle workload, there’s a complexity with managing large numbers of cloud instances, just like managing a large number of servers,” (source).
Integration cost is another black hole. Response time between machines and the MES is critical so if your plant is used to a response time in milliseconds, make sure your Cloud vendor can deliver that quality speed. Since Cloud is a relatively new technology, especially in the space of Manufacturing Execution Systems, many IT executives “lack of visibility into future demand and its associated costs” (source).
Manufacturing Execution Systems as Cloud-based-applications are a new, growing technology solution for manufacturers. There are clear risks associated with moving to a Cloud-based-system, especially in the protection of data security and system speed. However, if you are starting from scratch and have few resources with the IT capabilities needed to maintain a Manufacturing Execution System in-house, then Cloud may be the way to go.
Your company wants to drive towards transformation to take its manufacturing capabilities to the next level. During your research, you found that organizations use Cloud technology as a catalyst for large-scale change, which is the goal your plant wants to achieve.
Since your company is a mid-size manufacturer with no current Manufacturing Execution System or a strong IT presence, it is a good candidate for a Cloud solution. The company is willing to put effort into developing a Cloud Strategy to ensure a secure, stable, and clear MES-Cloud-app solution. Due to these considerations and the information gathered, the board voted to accept the bid from a MES Cloud application vendor.