Asia–Pacific leads the way to the cloud
Nobody can be sure who popularised the term ‘cloud computing’, but today cloud computing is a widely used technology that is used across a wide range of sectors.
In late-1996, the term ‘cloud computing’ was used for what may have been the first time, in a meeting at Compaq Computing offices; however, nobody can be sure who popularised the term. Regardless, 22 years later, cloud computing is a widely used technology, which is easily recognised and used across a wide range of sectors, including manufacturing.
Cloud computing, sometimes simply referred to as ‘the cloud’, is defined as an on-demand computing resource over the internet on a pay-for-use basis. This is becoming increasingly popular with industrial businesses looking to easily manage and access their data from anywhere in the world.
The Asia–Pacific region has long been a world leader in export manufacturing, particularly in the electronics market. Although manufacturers are typically slow to use new technologies, those in the APAC region have been keen to take advantage of the benefits. Lim May-Ann, Executive Director for the Asia Cloud Computing Association (ACCA), explained: “Use cases are becoming much more established and, with an appropriate regulatory framework in place, we envisage the migration of more business-critical processes and applications to the public cloud to become more prevalent and drive this upward growth trajectory into the coming years.”
The quick adoption of cloud computing in the APAC region is also demonstrated by the recent report carried out by Zebra. The report found nearly half of APAC manufacturers will have smart factories by 2022.
Smart factories, which combine automation and data exchange using cyber-physical systems, have been increasing in popularity alongside cloud computing. The benefits of the smart factory are wide and varied, ranging from gathering and integrating direct data from sensors using the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to wearable technologies.
The data collected from a smart factory can also be fed back into planned predictive maintenance (PPM) schemes and remote monitoring of equipment. Unlike reactive maintenance, which involves waiting for a piece of machinery to break, PPM can be used ahead of time to prevent breakdowns and downtime.
In addition, remote monitoring means plant managers can order spare parts before a breakdown occurs, drastically reducing the amount of associated downtime.
Specifically, for manufacturers, who are often working on low-margin, high-volume goods such as automotive parts and electronics, cloud computing can be used to analyse the wealth of data collected from a smart factory, while eliminating any need to purchase expensive licences for industrial software.
It can also allow manufacturers to manage their partners. A ‘community cloud’ can be formed by third-party suppliers, logistics partners, manufacturers and even the client. For the manufacturer, this is an unprecedented opportunity to look at the entire supply chain, gaining insight and improving efficiency.
Capitalising on this opportunity, supplying cloud computing for businesses is now its own industry. This new industry resulted in a 155% increase in cloud-related job growth in Japan between 2012 and 2015.
Cloud software providers can focus solely on producing cloud-enabled software that meets the specific needs of manufacturers. Because of this dedicated service, cloud-based platforms and applications typically provide a greater degree of precision and speed, and meet customer requirements more specifically than the old systems often built by the manufacturers themselves.
The Asia Cloud Computing Association (ACCA) acts across the Asia–Pacific region to make cloud computing a reality, partially by ensuring that the needs of manufacturers are met. It provides a platform for debating strategies, sharing ideas and establishing policies, educating the business and consumer communities and encouraging the rapid adoption of cloud standards.
The work of the ACCA is crucial to overcoming some of the unique challenges posed in the APAC region, including a significant variation of regulations between countries, highly fragmented markets and the fact that key required technologies such as broadband aren’t yet ubiquitous.
Despite these issues, Japan led the way for the region in the 2018 BSA Global cloud computing scorecard. The scorecard assesses the legal and regulatory framework of 24 countries in areas including data privacy, intellectual property protection and cybersecurity. This suggests that Japan, and other APAC nations that scored in the top 10 such as Australia and Singapore, are in the ideal position to make the most of cloud computing.
A recent IDC Manufacturing Insights survey elaborated on why manufacturers in the area are choosing to take advantage of the benefits. The ease and speed of deployment was the top reason why manufacturers have chosen to adopt cloud computing, while connection speed and cybersecurity continue to be the main barriers.
In addition to concerns about the breach of sensitive data, APAC manufacturers are also anxious about the consequential loss of time and expenditure of resources involved in reproducing the data.
Although the cloud is often perceived as less secure, in reality almost all security breaches are internal, so companies concerned about cybersecurity should focus on staff training and implementing policies on topics such as bring your own device (BYOD).
Despite these concerns, cloud business intelligence adoption is soaring worldwide, and so far in 2018 has reached nearly double the level it was in 2016. Cloud computing is the future of manufacturing, with more businesses worldwide looking to the cloud to make use of the data pouring in from the proliferation of connected sensors throughout the supply chain. The Asia–Pacific region is wholeheartedly embracing the new wave of computing power, leading the way for the rest of the world.
Although there remains much debate about the origin of the term cloud computing, it is becoming increasingly important, not just for consumers but in business, industry and manufacturing sectors, too.
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