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Is a cloud enabled future the best way forward?

Is a cloud enabled future the best way forward?
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Blackboard)

In the last year, we have seen a number of technological innovations advance in leaps and bounds. To keep up with the pace of change, businesses have taken significant steps to overhaul their digital transformation strategy. Automation and cloud computing have become a crucial part of businesses’ operating models, helping them to navigate the new normal.

About the author

Alan Prior is VP and Industry Consultant for EuroNorth at Dassault Systèmes.

Cloud computing has come out a clear winner among digital transformation tools in 2020: recent findings from PWC identified that cloud spending rose 37% to $29 billion during the first quarter of 2020. And it is predicted that this trend will continue: cloud spending is estimated to rise 19% for the full year.

While many are reaping the benefits of the cloud, for certain industries and industry professionals, such manufacturers and engineers, the question remains whether a cloud enabled future really is the best way forward.

Why the cloud for manufacturers and engineers?

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of collaboration and that having the right set of collaboration tools is important for any industry. For manufacturers and engineers that rely heavily on collaboration and distributed workforces, having the right tools in place is critical. As the sector has traditionally been slow to realize the advantage of Industry 4.0, the pandemic has forced teams to restructure and rethink how they work, and how they design and bring new products to the markets more quickly than ever before.

Cloud-based virtualization and design tools allow engineers and manufacturers to collaborate effectively in remote working environments. With such technology, manufacturers and engineers can manage internal working and design processes all in a virtual environment. For example, our recent survey ‘A sustainable future for business post-COVID’ revealed that the life sciences sector has adopted digital collaboration tools at a rapid pace in order to innovate in light of COVID-19 (71% of respondents).

This is why have recently made all our software brands and applications suitable for cloud computing via our 3DEXPERIENCE platform. The goal is to help our customers across all markets to accelerate their innovation cycle through the cloud. By connecting all of the tools together in a single collaborative business environment, we aim to help our clients reduce inefficiencies at every step of the engineering and manufacturing chain.

Supporting product innovation, life cycle management and sustainability

Not only has cloud-based technology helped to speed up the cycle of innovation, it has also enabled organisations to be more cost efficient and sustainable through the implementation of virtual twin technology.

The virtual twin approach encompasses a set of virtual collaborative tools and solutions to create virtual models and simulations of products. Introducing this way of working within teams fosters an environment of knowledge sharing and speeds up time to market for new products. Virtual twin technology also helps manufacturers and engineers quickly adapt to changing consumer needs, whilst also ensuring products are industry compliant. Addressing these challenges in a virtual environment allows manufacturers and engineers to test ‘what if’ situations, all without any implications on the real world, or without the cost of a physical product.

In addition to industry compliance and business sustainability, companies must also consider their customers, who are becoming increasingly conscious of ecological and sustainability topics. Today’s consumer wants to be able to chart the journey their products has taken, from concept to the final product. They demand to know if their product has come from sustainably sourced materials, if it has been designed sustainably and they expect to see details of the carbon footprint associated with the creation and delivery of the product.

By creating one source of truth across the entire development and supply network, virtual twin technology enables companies to immediately assess this information and provide more transparent communication to their clients. In our survey ‘A sustainable future for business post-COVID’, one third of respondents even admitted that lack of access to virtual twins is one of the biggest barriers to becoming sustainable in the future.

Knowledge sharing through the cloud

Cloud computing is the second most requested tech skill for 2021 and as we’ve seen this technology is radically reshaping the world of work.

As software becomes increasingly more advanced, engineers and manufacturers need to evolve their skill set to adapt to the changing ways products are made, and the ever-changing demands of consumers.

For example, there has been a massive increase in demand for smart products - from smart cars to the likes of Google Home and Alexa. These new must-have smart products need to be consistently updated and upgraded throughout their life-cycle, a challenge that requires a different way of approaching innovation, product design and software engineering. With this in mind, manufacturers and engineers need to develop skills that allow them to design, create and deliver the products and features consumers want.

So that leaves the question: is a cloud-enabled future the best way forward?

The simple answer is yes: a cloud-powered world allows companies to innovate faster, be more transparent and sustainable, and up-skill their workers to better meet the government’s ambitions for carbon net zero. The cloud’s modularity also means that it can adapt to any environment and industry to suit the immediate and future needs of businesses large and small.