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Manufacturing in the Cloud – Remote Management of Manufacturing Operations in times of Crisis

The COVID-19 crisis is playing out at breakneck speed, challenging business models, global supply chains and creating far more losers than winners on a professional and personal basis. For manufacturers it has been a mixed bag. The admirable reaction from many factories has been to assist in supplying critical equipment such as PPE and ventilators if they are able, then react and carry on if they are in a hot vertical such as food supply, logistics, alcohol or hygiene products - assuming the region or country is not in total lockdown. The longer-term implications of the pandemic are already suggesting a rebalancing of offshoring strategies that have dominated global supply chains for the past 30-40 years. Driven by necessity, political will, law and incentives we will witness a surge in manufacturing investment back to countries that have let the industry dwindle.

Throughout the world right now, an enabling operating model has become universal – whether in China, Europe the Americas or Australia. It is the relocation of non-critical operational staff, management and administration to the home office leaving operators, supervisors and essential maintenance workers to continue the manufacturing and distribution processes on site. This model may persist for some time and will accelerate the adoption of virtual technologies that allow site-monitoring from afar.

Over the last three weeks we have polled many customers to ascertain how they are maintaining a semblance of normality when it comes to production management and organisational control. The replies range from “we are struggling” to “we are coping well”. The companies that seem to be doing better have the systems, processes and automation in place to ensure communication flows to all stakeholders in a timely fashion. They have adopted a digital-first philosophy and have implemented scalable, mobile-enabled systems that provide similar visibility of site activities whether they are on the factory floor or at home with an iPad.

One such company is Oliveri based in Adelaide, where the Operations Management team access real time data on equipment status, production targets, workforce activities, stoppage reasons and maintenance issues allowing them to respond to problems immediately.

John Woodcock ‘s home office with Scheduling, Execution, ERP and all the essentials to remotely monitor the manufacturing operations in Regency Park, South Australia.

John Woodcock, General Manager at Oliveri has established an operations control centre from his home office that allows him to monitor sales, supply chain, production schedules and execution meaning he does not have to constantly call various managers to assess the status of the business. This allows him to focus on what matters, coordinating the entire supply chain from raw material to customer satisfaction across a geographically diverse market. Oliveri chose a suite of web-based tools instead of traditional onsite execution systems. Through secure access John’s production schedulers, operations supervisors and management can create, publish, update plans, monitor order status and communicate with clients at all times.

John made a comment during a recent status call that “technologies such as these have reduced my requirement to constantly speak to my team on the phone. We are operating as normal, only managing deviation and issues by exception”.

While it is not as effective as standing on the shop floor it has allowed them to maintain supply, avoid disruption and pivot quickly to the new normal of partial remote operations. Without cloud execution this would be a lot more difficult.

Most manufacturing execution and enterprise processes can now effectively reside in the cloud. Only critical, real time control systems that manage machinery and equipment processes are required on premise and access to these can also be remote. The on premise/off premise line has previously been drawn at the ERP but with new generation, fast, serverless solutions, enough bandwidth and the upcoming 5G revolution we will see more and more traditional shop-floor capabilities move to hybrid or full cloud architectures. COVID-19 will accelerate this adoption and enterprises caught without enabling technologies will struggle to pivot as successfully as those who are future-ready.

How Can We Help?

If you have a need to move to remote access for operational data management, then we are offering a free access option to our software for Production Scheduling and a no-obligation trial. With our assistance, you can transform your existing schedules to our cloud system and receive up to 5 hours free onboarding support. If this sounds like an option worth discussing, please contact us at For equipment and shop floor monitoring, contact us for information on how we can install IIoT sensors and configure monitoring solutions in less than one day.

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