Cloud computing has found a home in the consumer world, but is it ready for the design, engineering, and manufacturing community? Moving discussions about the cloud beyond the consumer and automotive world, where Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) recently made a splash, Japan's Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo: 6702; London: FUJ; OTC: FJTSY) is rolling out a similar offering to high-tech equipment vendors to help them "transform the manufacturing process," the company said in a press statement.
I know there are still many people in the high-tech community who doubt the potential of cloud computing to help reduce manufacturing snafus; slash product costs by eliminating duplication of services and IT resources; and generally smoothen design, procurement, and production processes. Fujitsu summed up the service it is introducing as follows:
The Engineering Cloud will provide customers access to these [engineering-support software and analytic software, as well as parts database software] services anywhere and anytime, without PC environment concerns, and without necessitating any special set-up beforehand. This promises to greatly reduce manufacturing costs and development times.
Although the cloud engineering services that Fujitsu plans to roll out starting in October are specific to the company, the elements of the service point the way forward for the high-tech world.
The idea of a central, outsourced, and available-anywhere point for supplier management, procurement, and inventory data is not new -- it is, after all, the foundation of all enterprise resource planning (ERP) programs -- but cloud computing takes it to another level. It transfers the responsibility and costs of managing the systems involved to a more efficient and effective third-party host. This allows services to be offered at a lower cost and, in addition, enables companies to access the offerings only when needed, and at multiple facilities.
Below are the three advantages Fujitsu expects to offer its potential customers through cloud computing. I expect these would be similar to what other cloud service providers will offer:
Easy operations with no dedicated workstations:
The cloud platform makes even 3D CAD operations run smoothly, thanks to RVEC high-speed image compression. The heavy-duty processing that once called for dedicated workstations can now be handled by a notebook computer or even a smartphone.
Dramatically reduces manufacturing costs and development times:
Server consolidation and license consolidation both reduce costs, and by using applications based on Fujitsu's know-how and by optimizing development methods, customers can shorten development cycles.
Ties together multiple locations:
This service obviously makes it possible to share data, but more than that, it lets geographically disperse members of a development team teleconference and share screens, allowing closer collaboration.
The concept sounds good and builds on ideas the industry has been exploring for decades: lower costs, increased specialization, and focus on core expertise/competence. But will it work in practice, and are manufacturers willing or likely to trust sensitive design, engineering, and supply chain information to a remote host, given the potential for increased security risks?
Well, I am really convinced eemom's perspective is one of the most important, but we have discussed a lot in previous posts about topics main related to technical concerns, including security. For manufacturers probably others are placed at first position of the rank: trademark, copyright, confidentiality of information. To be honest, as of today, could we list cloud providers for manufacturers in condition to allow applications and on top features to ensure above mentioned needs? Is there for example any procurement cloud service up and running (with customers' satisfaction)?
TaimoorZ, The security concerns are real but service providers are acutely aware of this and working to assure customers this won't be a problem. They are reaching deep into the supply chain for solutions and working with semiconductor components makers to incorporate security at both software and hardware levels. The Cloud is merely an offshoot of the internet and companies have long ago sidelined internally developed intranets for the web. This won't be that much different but the impact is expected to be enormous.
I believe it to be more of a security issue than trademark issue. Information placed on a cloud server is meant to provide access to customers which does not include proprietary trademark issues. I could be wrong though, but that is my current understanding.
Is it more of a trust issue or security of design work? How will trademark issues be managed? I welcome the ease of access to data and portability of information that this will provide to High Tech industries.
@anandvy: That's a really important point. I think security on the cloud is very important especially when companies are relying on the clouds for critical business functions. Without adequate security over the cloud, companies might end up getting their product designs leaked out which can cost them heavily.
I also think so. It is not until there are some reliable providers and security concerns are dealt with, the cloud computing will still be in infancy. The major advantages of the cloud computing are lower cost and minimal infrastructure and this is specially beneficial for small businesses.
I guess this is welcome to the cloud for all of us.
I like the approach the tech industries are taking as regards the cloud. the fears are not deterring them rather, they are sporing them to greater action, while ensure the fears are catered for.
Obviously the cloud's major challenge is security, once settled reasonably, things will kick off.
With internet access becoming an human right, the cloud actually stands to improve global quality of living and access to information, and now with cloud manufacturing, access to endless resources as well.
If Tech giants can step in first, others will surely follow suite.
Well, I agree. Going further, once concerns on "shared" ERP and security will be solved, a new one will come: SLA to negotiate between manufacturer and provider. As of today contract negotiation has achieved a standard template for example with regard to connections' availability or basic interworking services, but while discussion is going to move on ERP, which criteria will be adopted for services' continuity, penalties and so on? In my view, as happened in the past in electronics, cloud providers have to move forward also on these topics, before declaring readiness for manufacturing.
After reading what Fujitsu has been offering, I think cloud manufacturing has serious staying power. Being able to access CAD from a non dedicated system is a huge step. Cloud manufacturing appears to be able to save some serious money for companies ready to take the leap. As soon as concerns about security are answered, I think there will be more companies looking to make the conversion to the cloud.
It is being great that tremedous efforts are being achived towards cloud IT innovation. Every cloud adoptors must perform testing of applications, infrasructures and plafroms ensuring maximum confidence before integrating cloud IT environment to organisation operations.
Thus, risk of interagting IT cloud would reduce to a level where MIS can confidently implement.
1 Operation testing this needs done prior to integration of applications.
2 Funtional testing is very imperative in this regard to ensure design applications, platforms and infrastructures are funtioning as expected on operation.
By moving to the core of the industry and offerings services that keep the system humming, a group within the electronics market has rendered irrelevant the question of ownership and control of the supply chain.
EBN Dialogue enables and encourages you to participate in live chats with notable leaders and luminaries. Not only editors and journalists, but the entire EBN community is able to comment and ask questions. Listed below are upcoming and archived chats.
Thailand Stages a Comeback Join EBN contributor Jennifer Baljko on Thursday August 23, 2012, at 11:00 a.m. EST for a live chat on how electronic manufacturers in Thailand have shored up their supply chain to reduce the impact of future natural disasters.
Microsoft Surface: Potential Winners & Losers What are the implications for the electronics industry supply chain of Microsoft Corp.'s decision to launch its own tablet PC? Join industry veteran and EE Times' systems and OEM expert Rick Merritt on Tuesday, July 3, at 12:00 pm EDT for a Live Chat on this subject.
Join EBN contributor Jennifer Baljko on Thursday August 23, 2012, at 11:00 a.m. EST for a live chat on how electronic manufacturers in Thailand have shored up their supply chain to reduce the impact of future natural disasters.
Peter Drucker famously said "Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window." Yet in the razor's-edge world of electronics—with a lean supply chain and just-in-time demands—the need to know the future is vital.
While no one really can accurately predict the future, we can take guidance from another Drucker saying which is the best way to predict the future is to create it.
You've heard the saying "the No. 1 supply chain risk is your people." That hasn't always been the case. But today's complex global supply chain requires a new type of multitalented employee. It's one who understands, finance, marketing, economics, is savvy with technology, graceful with relationships and can think analytically.
Where are these people? Are universities properly preparing the next generation supply chain professionals? How do train your existing workforce for these new, demanding positions?
Brian Fuller, editor-in-chief of EBN, will lead a 60-minute Avnet Velocity panel discussion that will ask and answer these and other questions swirling around today's supply-chain talent challenges.