The central premise of lean manufacturing is the elimination of waste in all parts of the value chain. Waste comes in many forms, and redundant work is high on the list. One of the most frequent patterns of redundant work occurs in record-keeping. With paper systems, information is collected on a piece of paper; a report is then prepared using the information on the paper; the report is then filed; and often a copy is sent elsewhere. With IT systems, redundant work is required when data entry has to be duplicated because two or more software systems are used by a company. This is so much part of the every day routine that it is often accepted as a given. Using "The Cloud"... software as a service (SaaS) that is accessible using any device, anywhere... changes all this. Which is why it will become a central factor in every lean production system.
There was a good article about this published last week in Manufacturing Business Technology called How The Cloud Helps Manufacturers Get To The Root Of Lean Management. (Full disclosure: the author, Gavin Davidson, works for NetSuite, a company selling SaaS subscriptions.) The article dives deep into reasons why disjointed legacy systems can undermine lean practices (ever have to enter accounting information from your production system?) and also describes the lean benefits of seamless record-keeping using The Cloud.
The obvious arguments are:
- Seamless data transfer avoids errors and saves time
- Reconfiguring reports to reflect evolving lean practices is more efficient with a seamless system
- Real-time data access from anywhere reduces time required to manage process
- Subscribing to a SaaS system is more cost-efficient than managing IT in-house
All of these reasons are compelling but they pale in comparison the biggest advantage that The Cloud provides in lean manufacturing: Visibility. As the article concludes:
"Besides the benefits of cross-enterprise integration, customization capability, and cost savings, [a] cloud [system] also gives decision-makers the tools and data they need to have full visibility into their company’s performance. That means not just its manufacturing performance but all of the functions both downstream and upstream from the factory."
This includes internal functions but, more importantly, external functions. The Cloud provides companies with windows into their supply chain and enables them to offer the same value to their customers. THIS is its real value... the ability to share information with vendors and customers seamlessly, enabling your company and your company's ecosystem to participate more cohesively in lean practices.
As we've written before (The Single Greatest Opportunity (Ever) in Construction), this is where the infrastructure construction market is heading. How much more effective will your just-in-time inventory control system be if you can have a window into the production status of your vendors? How much more value will you be providing to your customers if they can do the same with you? Or if they can locate the products you delivered to the lay down yard on a Google map?
Embracing The Cloud today provides your company with a competitive advantage. It will not be long before it is a prerequisite for winning bids.
Our purpose at Idencia is to offer infrastructure asset tracking solutions that improve productivity throughout the infrastructure value chain.. to create lean infrastructure. Our subscription offering applies RFID tracking to infrastructure products from the time of manufacture through end-of-life. As a cloud-hosted product tracking system that is seamless between manufacturers, contractors and asset managers, Idencia adds information value to all, eliminates redundancy and saves time. If you would like to learn how Idencia can help your company, we invite you to download a copy of our Idencia Primer ebook.