In a 2018 Industry 4.0 article, we discussed the introduction of disruptive technologies set to transform our window and door manufacturing industry. At the time we wrote about how Industry 4.0, (commonly referred to as the “fourth industrial revolution”) would fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. That implementation would mean radically changing the information framework and processes of your entire business.
Fast forward to Q4 of 2021 and I think I’m safe in saying we’ve all experienced at least a small part of the accelerated digital transformation in the past 20 months, due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. One of the biggest requests we had from our customers in the early months of the pandemic was to help them get their team up and running while working from home.
Cloud computing makes way for SaaS
Thanks to cloud computing, Software as a Service (SaaS) has become a highly transformative technology in manufacturing and supply chains in recent years. As a SaaS application is accessed via the internet (from anywhere with an internet connection), users don’t need to install and maintain a local version of the software to their computer or laptop. The application is hosted remotely and runs on your solution provider’s cloud servers.
SaaS applications are typically licensed on a subscription basis. You’ll pay a monthly fee based on the level of service, storage type, and the number of users you’ll need for your business.
So, what are the benefits of SaaS when deployed within an Industry 4.0 environment?
1. A mobile workforce
Most definitely the biggest benefit we’ve seen from the use of SaaS software in 2020/2021 is that our customers had a business continuity plan for when countries around the world went into various forms of lockdown. Remote access to business-critical software meant their teams could be agile and continue to access real-time data remotely which was critical for continued operations.
This reinforces the concept of data mobility – accessing your data where and when you need it, one clear advantage of digital transformation.
2. Increased security and reliability
SaaS providers have access to highly specific partners, resources, and tools that no window and door manufacturer would realistically specialize in (and rightly so). The data stored and processed in the cloud is managed by strict security requirements, resulting in a secure platform to ensure your data is protected.
Since SaaS is hosted in the cloud, your team will be able to securely access the data 24/7 and from anywhere, increasing flexibility and reliability. Your data is also protected from any disaster that could impact your manufacturing facility should you retain the operational data onsite.
3. Reduced cost and risk
As all your data is stored in the cloud and the application is run on virtual machines, there is no longer a need to purchase and maintain expensive hardware equipment such as PCs, laptops, and local servers. If there is less hardware and equipment to maintain, your IT resource costs will be reduced. The risk of managing your data locally would also decrease. The running and maintenance of the cloud is the responsibility of the cloud platform and service provider you work with.
The benefits here are that window and door manufacturers/fabricators will have much lower IT and operating costs, and their risk is reduced as the responsibility of maintaining the security of their data is transferred to the highly specialized solution provider. Moreover, window and door manufacturers can focus on their specialty fields (making windows) and not focus on IT.
Because SaaS solutions are hosted in the cloud, your software can communicate and freely exchange real-time information across different tools and platforms such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Management Information Systems (MIS), and Customer Resource Management (CRM).
This allows your team to communicate across various departments in the business, all working off one true source of data to support end-to-end operations in your manufacturing facility.
Some of our customers came to us with “homegrown” systems set up to manage their business. Many of these systems have been added on to over the years as the business has grown. The time, skills, and resources (not to mention the risk of tribal knowledge) that go into ensuring these systems run as they should is relentless and expensive. These systems often operate in a silo and do not connect with other business-critical software. With SaaS, our customers can quickly and easily adjust their software to suit their changing business needs. Additional storage or services can be upscaled without having to invest in hardware or software.
The benefit here is that SaaS apps are highly scalable, allowing businesses to easily access more features and services as they grow.
If you’d like to find out more about how you can benefit from SaaS software solutions through this accelerated digital transformation and beyond, get in touch with one of our team here.