Cloud computing: the power to optimize manufacturing

BY DAVID W. JIMENEZ, CEO, Wright Williams & Kelly, Inc.

For 27 years Wright Williams & Kelly, Inc. (WWK) has developed strategies and operational products and services proven to produce significant results. Over the course of nearly three decades, WWK has saved its clients over $10 billion and led the way in cost modeling, capacity planning, and operational efficiency; however, sometimes a company gets ahead of its markets. It has been 15 years since WWK launched its first online subscription-based product…and 13 years since it stopped offering it. Today, WWK returns to the cloud.

The cloud is an innovation fueled by advanced chip technology, but it has also been a model the industry hesitated to embrace. Much of this had to do with limited data protection schemes. Intellectual property (IP) is at the core of a successful integrated circuit business and letting key information leave the confines of the organization has traditionally been a forbidden proposition.

Fast forward a decade and a half and cloud-based services are now the norm. Fears over IP theft remain, but the protections have greatly improved. Further, the offerings that add value to cloud-based solutions have also greatly expanded. The move to the cloud now has less to do with a reduction in paranoia and more to do with the advantages of cloud computing. IBM breaks down the advantages into three areas; flexibility; efficiency; and strategic value.

Flexibility allows the scaling of computing power to the task at hand regardless of the local machine used to connect. Efficiency is accessing the needed applications from anywhere in the world from any connected device. Strategic value comes from being able to move faster than competitors by not being tied to existing infrastructure and the hesitancy to obsolete major IT investments. Michael Wright and Walter Ferguson in their 2005 treatise “The New Business Normal” predicted strategic advantage would accrue to those who could access, collate, analyze, and act on information faster than the competition, anywhere in the world and at any time.

WWK has leveraged these advantages by moving its complete suite of manufacturing optimization applica- tions to the cloud. In addition to the advantages inherent in cloud computing, this move provides WWK’s clients substantial cost advantages by lowering up front licensing costs and shifting from capital budgeting to more flexible expense accounting.

Cloud-based solutions: Developed with DARPA/SEMATECH, TWO COOL® is a cost of ownership (COO) and overall equipment efficiency (OEE) modeling platform designed to help equipment and process engineers as well as suppliers understand process step level impacts of changes in operating parameters.

Initially developed by Sandia National Laboratories, Factory Commander® is a cost and resource analysis platform. It analyzes overall factory and individual product costs, manufacturing capacity, and return on investment.

Factory Explorer® is an integrated capacity, cost, and discrete-event simulation tool which predicts factory capacity and bottleneck resources, product cost and gross margins, and dynamic measures such as cycle time and work-in-process.

Advantages put into practice: One advantage in moving these applications to the cloud is users benefit from a state-of-the art computing system. Modeling and simulation apps are computing power intensive. Instead of each user requiring a high-end workstation, the cloud allows users to share a virtual machine(s) (VM). When needs increase, upgrading the VM is quick and low-cost. This keeps the total cost of ownership (TCO) for IT infrastructure at a minimum.
Another advantage is updates happen behind the scenes and for all users at the same time. Traditional software maintenance costs disappear. No more scenarios where users are operating on different revision levels nor lose data due to forgotten backups.

Remote computing has always been a better solution, but there were reasons behind the slow acceptance. Even before the term cloud computing came to the fore, WWK understood this. It offered a remote server-based product before anyone knew what the cloud was. WWK was early to market, but the understanding it gained pointed it in the right direction. Like most market windows you can be early but never late. The arrival of the breadth of solutions needed to offer cloud-based applications has enabled WWK to scrap client-side software licensing and provide a robust, low cost manufacturing optimization software suite with all the advantages it envisioned 15 years ago. I guess we are back to the future.

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