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Introducing the Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing

Written by: Abhi Ghatak, Director of Manufacturing Industry

In the last 18 months, the manufacturing industry has witnessed incredible volatility. Challenges included rapidly changing consumer demand, a supply chain melt down, skilled worker shortages and a focus on employee safety with a temporary transition to remote work. Companies are realizing that the old methods of working are no longer sustainable in the post pandemic world. To stay ahead of the competition, manufacturers are realizing that they need to use new technology to survive.

To better solve these challenges, Microsoft recently announced the preview release of their new cloud offering for manufacturers.

Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing is designed to deliver capabilities that support the core processes and requirements of the manufacturing industry. Its features include released and new capabilities that help securely connect people, assets, workflow, and business processes, empowering organizations to be more resilient.

Gartner estimates that spending on public-cloud services will reach nearly 10% of all corporate spending on information technology (IT) in 2021, up from around 4% in 2017. They predict that global sales of cloud services will rise by 26% in 2021, to more than $400bn.The Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing is a modular framework empowering manufacturers to add the specific capabilities they require as they embark on their journey of digital transformation, a benefit that helps smooth a customized implementation and reduce spend.

Its modular architecture solution includes traditional end-to-end cloud services like supply chain visibility or edge services for securely connecting factory devices or deploying core production and supply chain execution capabilities for mission critical factories and warehouse locations.

The Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing enables innovation in some key process areas.

  • Agile Factory of the Future
    • Simplify industrial IoT (Internet of Things) and OT (Operational Technology) security. Protect industrial IoT and OT environments with continuous asset discovery, vulnerability management, and threat detection
    • Connect people, products, and processes: Provide a 360-degree view of overall plant systems and workflow that allows operators to analyze problems and enhance workflow efficiency
    • Improve overall equipment effectiveness: Build agile factories and smart manufacturing processes with predictive technologies, IoT, and mixed reality to improve throughput, quality, and delivery while reducing costs
    • Optimize smart manufacturing processes with AI: Improve production efficiency and reduce downtime, without the need for data scientists—using AI-powered automation and manufacturing cloud solutions
  • Workforce Transformation
    • Connect frontline workers, office workers, and customers with the secure collaboration and information management tools needed to support remote work
    • Quickly onboard employees and help them continuously build skills with custom, role-based learning paths
  • Supply Chain Resilience
    • Build resilience with an agile supply chain: Predict and overcome disruptions fast, enhance visibility, improve planning, and maximize asset productivity with a digital supply chain
    • Build more predictability into your operations: Unify data across systems in your supply chain to drive agility and respond quickly to market changes without sacrificing innovation and speed—using intelligent business apps and advanced analytics
  • Digital Innovation
    • Build digital twins (we’ll explore in a future article) and digital thread capability for your products and services: Create a digital representation of real-world things, places, business processes, and people
  • Customer Engagement
    • Streamline sales execution: Empower sales teams to close new and recurring revenue with speed, predictability, and profit
    • Gain visibility into products and services: Enable teams to exceed service expectations by predicting, detecting, and resolving service issues before your customers even know there’s a problem

Rather than create a proprietary platform, Microsoft has harnessed its rich partner ecosystem, where industry leading solutions are offered within the manufacturing cloud, without the engineering and integration needs when deploying a “best of breed” solution. Some notable capabilities include supply chain planning with insights, integrated business planning and MES systems that include industrial IoT platforms.

The Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing is only the start of the new technologies and tactics being seized upon by the manufacturing market. Others tools — some of which we’ll discuss in depth in later blogs, all of which we’re happy to talk about any time (just contact us)—include agile planning, digital twins, machine learning, AI, mixed and virtual reality, and remote collaboration.