As seems to have been the case every year for the past half decade, 2012 is predicted to be the year that cloud computing finally takes off. Analysts believe that Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) has finally reached the requisite level of maturity to ensure that manufacturers will finally be able to outsource many of their ERP functions.
SaaS providers have managed to extend the functionality of their systems to mimic and replace those available in onsite equivalent ERP platforms immediately negating many of the concerns of business decision makers. Attention to improving platform and data security has also led to increased customer confidence further helping to boost uptake.
Ray Wang, principal analyst for the Constellation Research Group reckons SaaS for manufacturers will also need to demonstrate a high degree of interoperability to facilitate integration with existing on-premise systems. By hooking directly into the existing computer systems, manufacturers can extend and expand their systems without the usual costs associated with an in-house deployment or upgrade. As a result Wang believes that SaaS will reach a natural tipping point this year leading to an explosion in uptake.
James Leibel of technical consultants Cap Gemini is also expecting to see an explosion in embedded wireless tracking throughout the supply chain. These tracking devices, such as RFID and Near Field Communications (NFC) smart tags will help manufacturers keep an accurate inventory at every point of contact with minimal manual intervention, thereby reducing the potential for human error creating stock level issues. NFC and RFID tracking does however require additional investment in hardware for tracking the tags but Ray Wang reckons “Manufacturers will be applying sensor data to anything from predictive maintenance to improved demand forecasting.”
Finally all of the analysts appear to agree that manufacturers will make “healthy” investments in technology to underpin their operations and provide future-proof capacity. Analysts have been wrong in the past, but this year their claims seem highly credible.