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Smart Manufacturing With Cloud Computing (Part 2)

Posted on Saturday, Dec 4th 2010

By guest author Shaloo Shalini

Continuing the discussion, Eyal Altman says, “Now that we have this Force platform to work on, with all these applications that are built for this environment, we are in the process of deploying a new application for customer on-boarding process using Salesforce. It’s more efficient than how companies on-board customers traditionally. Earlier, a salesperson would be required to visit a prospective customer. In order to open up a new account, they would have to give them forms to fill in, and customers would be required to fax their credit references. Then someone in our credit department had to call in those references, and then they would have to validate those. Contrast this with the new cloud-based process – Elkay deploys an application called Forseva, which operates on the Force platform. It does all these steps required for credit validation automagically via Web pages. It is a credits and collection automation application that integrates right into salesforce application. With this integration, all the workflows at Elkay are done right through Web pages. As part of on-boarding a new customer, the salesperson at Elkay simply e-mails the prospective customer a link into the online credit form. Once the customer fills out the form and submits it online, Forseva can do automated credit checks with the credit reporting agencies, and the Elkay workflow for customer on-boarding just moves through in an automated fashion. That is one of the examples of a traditional process that was moved to the cloud and it improved business efficiency.”

Smart Integration

Typically, there are some parts of the organization that can quickly adopt cloud-based solutions, and there are other areas that are still traditional in the sense that they are run on-premise with traditional software solutions. What some of the cloud adopters and those in manufacturing enterprises require is a smarter mechanism to deal with integration. Solutions such as Cast Iron are addressing some aspects of integration. Vendors such as Model Metrics are pitching in as well, helping customers address integration issues. Integration is an area that we have come across repeatedly as the “blue-sky” opportunity in cloud computing for entrepreneurs. Eyal’s suggests that as part of rolling out any solution, vendors have to be mindful of what problems they are solving for users and how they can make life easier for users. He says that entrepreneurs need to strike a balance between addressing n individual user’s need and an enterprise’s needs from the cloud-based solution. Based on his integration experience, he believes that it is simpler to adopt solutions that are focused on solving a particular problem instead of those which are complex and tedious to deploy, customize, or integrate with existing systems in place.

Smart Collaboration

Collaboration at scale using cloud technology is an emerging business trend according to McKinsey, and Elkay Manufacturing is seeing the positive effects of cloud adoption in the form of broader enterprise collaboration. During our discussion on this topic, Eyal mentioned that Salesforce and other cloud-based solutions really make a company rethink their strategy on how to actually execute things better. He adds that at Elkay Manufacturing, they were able to tie in their demand planning and supply chain organization into the Salesforce application, allowing different parts of the organization to take a peek into the opportunities that their sales teams are working on. In a more traditional environment, that would involve a few sit-down meetings, several face-to-face discussions, or phone conversations. The cloud provides a collaborative environment where users have the flexibility to deploy additional licenses in different parts of the organization when needed, for interaction with sales and marketing data. It helps them scale beautifully in terms of information sharing between different parts of the same organization.

At Elkay, this aspect of their traditional collaboration process has changed completely and given them agility, more transparency, and empowerment to employees through more effective collaboration. Eyal gives an example whereby as part of selling directly to businesses, with cloud-based solutions in place, if Elkay now receives any customer feedback on the quality of a product, the data does not stay in their CRM but with the help of intelligent integration between cloud-based applications, Elkay’s quality control team also has access and insights into such customer feedback. The quality organization is able to track different products closely and mine the data, and is actively plugged into the actual product usage stage. This plugging in of quality organization, customer service data organization, and planning, and supply chain organizations was possible through Elkay’s cloud adoption.

Well, cloud computing is certainly changing the way industries and enterprises are doing business in more ways than the conventional. With wider cloud adoption in the coming years, there is bound to be evolution to the next level. In the next level of cloud evolution, access to business-critical data and analytics will not just help enterprises beat competition and stay ahead, it will be crucial to their existence. According to IDC, the manufacturing industry is undergoing a major transformation enabled by IT and related smart technology. There is no doubt in my mind that cloud computing is emerging as one of the major enablers for the manufacturing industry, transforming its business models, helping it to align product innovation with business strategy, and creating intelligent factory networks that encourage effective collaboration.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Smart Manufacturing With Cloud Computing
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