Cloud Manufacturing: Is 2019 the Year of the Manufacturing Platform?

Andrew Rieser
By Andrew Rieser | Co-Founder and CEO, Mountain Point
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Spoiler: YES… but it’s more like the Cloud Manufacturing DECADE

At the beginning of the year, Forbes named 2019 the Year of the Manufacturing Platform. We couldn’t agree more. In fact, in January, we recorded a video (see below) outlining our predictions for what a truly unified Manufacturing Platform might look like along with some advice on how manufacturers might make the most of these technologies.   

Coming down off the high of Dreamforce 2019, I had a day to reflect on the experience and starting thinking back to our January predictions. What came true, and what didn’t? Would I offer the same advice now? How have the past 11 months changed my perspective on the future of manufacturing? 

For the most part, I think our path has been predictable. But, of course, the details of the journey have only become clear as we’ve traveled the course. 

During Dreamforce, Salesforce Co-CEO Marc Benioff highlighted the evolution of systems.

"We've gone from systems of record, to systems of engagement, to systems of intelligence," Benioff said. “Now the industry is moving toward a Single Source of Truth (SSOT) — something computer scientists have been talking about for years.”

Data availability is at an all-time high, and continuing to increase. This availability impacts everything from the shop floor to the back office, and ultimately, helps create the Customer 360 experience. Building unified, world-class customer experiences will be the distinguishing factor for all industries moving forward — and unified data is the key to it all. I’ve used the word “unified” repeatedly and that’s on purpose. Because having access to data is just one piece of the puzzle. To take our businesses to the next level, we must focus on integration and context to create an infrastructure that gives us a complete and intelligent picture of our companies and a  nuanced understanding of our customers’ journeys.   

Interested in learning more about data in manufacturing? Don't miss Data In Depth, our manufacturing podcast focused on advanced analytics, business intelligence, and machine learning.

Earlier this year, Salesforece announced the launch of their Manufacturing and Consumer Goods clouds. Cloud computing for manufacturers offers many key strategic advantages for organizations, including the ability to integrate systems and improve management capabilities. 

As we wrap up 2019, I’m eager to see how these clouds grow and evolve. And, as we noted back at the beginning of the year, our journey is just beginning. The next decade promises unparalleled innovation that, I think, can truly revolutionize the manufacturing industry. 



In this episode of Q&A Friday, originally published in January of 2019, we talked through the rise of the manufacturing cloud and hit on the trends that will likely define the next decade of manufacturing. 

Have a question you’d like answered? Let us know, and we’ll talk through it on a future episode!

Episode Transcript:

Jessica Vodden: Hi and thanks for joining us for another Q&A Friday, a regular series where we chat about issues facing manufacturing companies. I am Jessica Vodden, a team member here at Mountain Point, and I am joined today by Andrew Rieser, our co-founder and president. Hey, Andrew.

Andrew Rieser: Hey. Happy Friday.

Jessica Vodden: You too. So today I wanted to kind of step away from some of the specific problems and issues that we typically address in this series and talk about an overarching industry trend, and that's this move toward a manufacturing platform or cloud.

Jessica Vodden: So, Forbes recently posted an article called "Why 2019 Will be the Year of the Manufacturing Platform" so I kind of wanted to run that by you, Andrew, get a sense of how you feel about that concept, and can you tell us a little bit about what that really means and whether or not you think that's an accurate prediction?

Andrew Rieser: Yeah, sure. So I think if we take a quick step back as it relates to just technology in general and kind of the evolutions and trends of the industrial revolutions, the [inaudible 00:01:00] that we go through leading to where we are today, a lot of industries seem to go through this cycle as it relates to technology and the technology that we're using.

Andrew Rieser: And so, when we think about platforms and cloud, I think a lot of different industry verticals have already started building technology specifics, so when you think of healthcare or financial services, you can probably point to a handful or less of platforms that are out there specific to that industry.

Andrew Rieser: I think manufacturing has been so focused on the product and the back office and ERP systems in the past. Now with the advent of cloud computing and these cloud platforms, I think the time is right for verticalization of manufacturing. So I do agree that 2019 is gonna be the year of kind of solidifying what that means. However, I think it's still gonna take probably the next three to five years to really put some of this in practice with manufacturing.

Andrew Rieser: I think manufacturing as a whole here in the United States is kind of going through its own transformation even outside of technology, so you've got the natural attrition. You got the reshoring or onshoring and you've also got a whole slew of new technologies like 3D printing and other means of which you don't have the typical kind of production and physical footprint on supply chain issues that you used to have in the past, so those capital investments upfront to really get a manufacturing footprint off the ground were often price-prohibitive for any newcomers but now with these new technologies and global reach and things like 3D printing like I mentioned, manufacturers are able to be more agile and to have a smaller footprint and be able to source this type of stuff all over the world now and create a competitive advantage for themselves.

Jessica Vodden: Okay. So when it comes to this platform concept, so walk me through some of the components or some of the systems that typically were segregated that are now being integrated into a single platform. I know you mentioned ERP. What else?

Andrew Rieser: Yeah, so I think if you look at every line of business and manufacturing, so if you start on the front end with sales and marketing, you look at kind of the backend, accounting and finance, and also the whole operation, so product development, engineering, and the actual manufacturing, then throw in dealing with suppliers and distributors and everybody in your supply chain, each of those were typically segmented processes and tools that were being used and what we're seeing today is more consolidation and bringing all of that under not as many umbrellas.

Andrew Rieser: So, you'll still have these core kind of systems of record so to speak, but the systems of engagement and kind of integration with these external and internal systems is becoming more and more prevalent so that you can have a "360 degree view" of everything that's going on within your organization.

Jessica Vodden: Yeah. So, I know we've talked on some the previous Q and A Friday episodes giving some specific examples of this concept, but can you give me an example of something we've worked through with a client recently to kind of give them that 360 degree viewpoint?

Andrew Rieser: Yeah, I'll take a more futuristic example that's coming up. When I see futuristic, it is not out of the realm, but it's more just kind of the maturity of the organizations that we're talking to and where they are from a data and technology standpoint. But what's really interesting is that whole dynamic of how sales, the traditional outside sales work with inside sales and engineering and work with other product development and manufacturing and just that life cycle of when a new opportunity is identified to where a specification, whether it be engineered to order to just stand standard quoting of a standard product, and that whole life cycle that has the touchpoints and handoffs.

Andrew Rieser: So I bring that up to kind of set the stage, because I think that's becoming table stakes nowadays is enhanced visibility, collaboration, and communication amongst those different groups, so breaking down those silos and incorporating the processes to make that a more streamlined value-added process.

Andrew Rieser: But the cool thing now as we talk about platforms and the future are things like artificial intelligence, and so a lot of these new modern cloud platforms are incorporating AI into the mix and the value and the conversations that we're having with customers today are around how they can not only streamline those processes that I just mentioned but incorporate an intelligence layer into that that is analyzing those things. So, an engineered to order product request where a quote needs to be specified more often than not, there's multiple people that are involved in that process that are outside the four walls of what the manufacturer controls, so parts and services that they might have to acquire from their suppliers, and when you talk about that there's a lot of gaps and things that are outside of your control but the more that you can have those kind of indicators be identified and previous historical buying history or purchasing history from suppliers based off the demand identified, I think that that really streamlines that process and allows you to be more efficient.

Andrew Rieser: And then you take it the next step in opening that up and creating better partnerships with your supply chain or your suppliers, and having insights into their production schedules and plans and being able to really kind of communicate at a system level now with people still involved, but really consolidating that data so that you can get better insights, better answers, and ultimately solving that immediacy problem of being able to get that quote and design turned back to the end consumer as fast as possible.

Jessica Vodden: Very cool. For those of you who are listening, if you haven't checked out our episodes on the customer service consoles that we did with Tony and also the customer service platform that we did with Julie, I would definitely recommend that you go back and listen to those episodes because I think they give you a really good example of how this platform concept can be used to give that end-to-end insight that Andrew's describing, and particularly from the perspective of giving you information to better serve your customers.

Jessica Vodden: Okay. Andrew, one more question for you. Let's say that I'm a manufacturer. I've been working on a lot of segregated or siloed legacy systems. I see the value in moving to this more centralized platform, but that's a big lift, right? So where do you start?

Andrew Rieser: Yeah, it's a great question, and typically where we see the most success with our customers is starting at the data and really making sure that you have a full understanding of your customer or partner journeys.

Andrew Rieser: So, oftentimes, these legacy business processes are no longer relevant, so taking a look at the business objective that you're trying to solve, understanding where the data elements are that support that process, and then coming up with a plan for how you're gonna address it and move forward with it.

Andrew Rieser: So, technology's a great enabler of all of this, but really getting a "tiger team" of the subject matter experts, the data experts and the product owners in a room to talk about what the new world order looks like and how that maps into these new platforms, that's where the rubber meets the road and that's where we see our more mature kind of successful customers really gaining value and ROI out of the system is tying back those key elements to the business objectives that they're solving.

Jessica Vodden: Great. Well, anything else you'd like to add on this topic?

Andrew Rieser: No. I think that, like I mentioned, the next three to five years are gonna be really interesting to see the manufacturing industry evolves, so you've got the big players that are out there like Siemens and GE that are already doing a lot of futuristic things with Internet of Things and creating these "manufacturing platforms" for solving some of these challenges. Now with Salesforce verticalizing and having a manufacturing vertical, I think it's the platform to watch out for and it has IoT, AI, and all these other kind of core elements that are gonna feed into it. So, these next few years should be really exciting to see how you take these systems of record and systems of engagement and really create that platform of the future for manufacturing.

Jessica Vodden: Yeah. I think it's exciting. It's an exciting time to work in this arena. Well, thank you so much.

Jessica Vodden: For those of you listening, if you have a question you'd like us to answer or a topic you want us to tackle, let us know. You can always let us know on our social media channels. You can email us, call us. We'd love your feedback. We'd also love to hear what advice you might offer, so yeah, hit us up online. Thanks again, Andrew, and happy Friday.

Andrew Rieser: Likewise. Thank you, Jess.


Topics: Digital Transformation, Manufacturing Cloud

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