Cloud-Based Quality Systems Just Make Sense

Jim Frider
By Jim Frider | October 7, 2020
Senior Product Marketing Manager

Fact checked by Stephen O'Reilly

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) has been around for a while now. Also known as cloud-hosted or cloud-based software, SaaS systems have grown from niche products to market dominance.
 
Manufacturing has a history of moving at a glacial rate to adopt new technology. But cloud technology is not new anymore. A pretty compelling argument can be made to switch your manufacturing organization’s quality management to a cloud-based quality system. And in today’s changing, volatile manufacturing climate, the cost advantages, power, and versatility of the cloud have become essential to survival.
 
InfinityQS offers two SaaS products, two powerful quality management tools that today’s manufacturers cannot do without: Enact® and ProFicient on Demand. Both offer avenues to improve your organization’s quality efforts in a highly cost-effective way. But total cost of ownership (TCO) is not the only advantage that SaaS quality solutions offer...
Cloud Technology on the Plant Floor

Why Manufacturing Companies Balk at New Technology

There are essentially three reasons why manufacturing companies are slow to move when it comes to technology: money, the status quo, and lack of workforce engagement.   
 

Money Money Money

For more “established” manufacturers, who have weathered many financial storms—from downturns in the stock market to wars to environmental concerns and even healthcare crises, investment in new technology can seem like a substantial risk.
 
Chances are that these established companies have the ability to produce a wide range of products, and that they sometimes (by necessity) juggle their orders and profits with the need to maintain their competitiveness. However, any technological investment beyond the bare essentials can certainly seem like a “luxury” to these manufacturers.
 
Disrupting their production to integrate new technology is difficult for them to contemplate. It can seem too risky to many managers.
 
But I think it’s been proven of late that long-term thinking and a willingness to invest in new technology are now crucial. Digital transformation is the best way to facilitate lean manufacturing and agile production processes. Those companies who are not adapting and updating will quickly be left behind by their competitors.
 
There are hidden costs to hosting your quality systemMoney, as we all know, is a complicated issue. It’s never simply a case of “we just don’t have the money to do that,” instead it’s a multifaceted myriad of moaning and mastication. (That’s a lot of alliteration!) That’s just stalling and misdirection. Many companies just simply don’t want to go through what I would call the “rigor” of justifying expenditures… they don’t fairly evaluate and calculate the true costs of hosting the solution within their own IT infrastructure. Brad Forrest, InfinityQS Account Manager, wrote in his blog about The Hidden Costs of Hosting:
  • “They simply look at the cost of purchasing the licensing, and the annual maintenance costs
  • They might add the initial purchase cost for any hardware, database licensing, etc. (but the key word is “initial”—the long-term, ongoing hardware replacement costs are easily ignored)
  • Then they compare those costs to the annual fees for “leasing” a SaaS solution
  • Unfortunately—with this simplistic calculation—SaaS will ALWAYS lose!”
Brad goes on to say that indirect costs are the hidden costs that many manufacturers ignore when they want to justify their on-premises expenditure:
 
“Indirect costs include people and labor: the time necessary to apply fixes, patches, and updates; regular maintenance and upgrading; maintaining and upgrading backup systems; as well as real estate (you need to put your system somewhere!), electricity (not only to run the equipment, but for HVAC, lighting, etc.), and lots more.”
 
Really studying the difference in cost between SaaS and on-premises solutions is what I referred to above as the “rigor” that manufacturers would have to go through to see the entire picture and act accordingly. Many just don’t want to go through that. But if you take the time and include all the direct and indirect costs, manufacturers can save up to 50% over on-premises solutions…which is pretty compelling.
 

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

For most manufacturing firms, I think it’s safe to say that success depends on producing enough units, of the right quality, on time. They rely on staff skills and insights and trusted machinery to keep on top of their order book demands.
 
The prospect of any upheaval or change can be daunting. Moving over to a cloud-hosted quality software system and letting InfinityQS’ operations team manage and maintain your quality system can feel risky.
Cloud-Hosted Quality Software 
What they’re really saying is that they feel like they’re giving up control. And that can be scary. The truth of the matter is that creating a digital, cloud-hosted manufacturing environment is not relinquishing control, it is gaining more ability to manage and measure. In fact, the cost savings can enable manufacturers to purchase more licenses—so more workers and managers can use the quality system, driving more value to the company. Once everyone grasps this, it is simply a question of timing new system implementation to minimize disruption.
 

Workforce Engagement with System is Lacking

More established manufacturers frequently have older workers that rely on their experience to operate the plant and are not open to new technology. They are often averse to learning new ways to perform their everyday tasks, or they may be distrustful of quality management systems in general. These are all obvious impediments to change.
 
In many cases, it’s the attitude of the staff that dictates the pace of technological advancement in your manufacturing environment. That’s why traditional manufacturing companies need carefully structured and staged staff engagement strategies. They need “buy in.”
 
Employees need to understand why the changes are necessary. They need to know the benefits of a quality management system not just for the company, but for their own satisfaction and work environment, too. They don’t want “more work” from new systems.
 
In traditional companies, employee training for new systems needs to be structured in a way that enables them to feel comfortable and confident in using the quality system. Learning materials, therefore, must be freely available and user-friendly. The best-case scenario seems to be robust online help and comprehensive video and learning libraries that accompany the system. This enables the staff to learn at their own pace, freely reinforcing and revising what they need to know. And supervisors can see at a glance who has completed training units and who has read important updates, enabling them to give one-on-one coaching where necessary.
1-on-1 Training Right on the Plant Floor

Moving to a Cloud-Based Quality System Makes Sense

Given that many manufacturers have a tough time convincing themselves that a pivot to newer technology makes sense, especially right now—due to perceived risks, the status quo, and lack of workforce engagement—I think it’s time to discuss some of the many attributes and advantages to a move to the cloud that these companies should consider before they make this important decision.
 

Easy Deployment

Deployment is one of the best benefits derived from cloud-based systems. It’s so easy—all you need is internet connectivity and workstations (laptops, tablets, etc.). Deploying on-premises quality systems to multiple sites means server hardware and software, database software, and more IT and physical infrastructure (and time from the IT team).
 
Cloud systems offer faster deployments and reduced deployment risk. Why? Because there are no servers to buy, configure, and maintain. There’s no risk because you don’t have to invest heavily in hardware just to get the ball rolling. You never have to worry about making the big hardware purchase and investing your IT team’s time to configure everything…only to find that there are several major roadblocks to clear before you can actually use the system. There is no need to update your local systems when a new version of your quality software is released.
 
With the cloud, you invest lightly in inexpensive tablets or laptops, do some minor housework setting up user logins, give the users the password and point them to the appropriate website URL, and before you know it they are in the system and ready to roll.
 

Unified Database

A Bird's Eye View from the Plant FloorA single, unified database for all your sites enables you to aggregate your quality data. When data is aggregated, you can easily compare performance across production lines, shifts, facilities, and geographical distances. This “bird’s eye view” is critical for prioritizing quality improvement actions for your limited quality resources.
 
As InfinityQS COO, Doug Fair, mentioned in his blog, SPC: Hunting the Big Picture and the Big Payoff, to maximize your return on your quality system investment, “you need to focus on the big picture of what’s going on across your organization. Instead of focusing on quality problems, you need to look at data that represents quality information across multiple production lines, shifts, plants—across the entire enterprise.”
 
The big picture is the key. “My belief,” continues Doug, “is that more companies need to focus on the big picture of extracting manufacturing Intelligence from the quality data they have already collected. It’s not hard. You just need systems that will support shop floor, enterprise-wide data collection and a means of aggregating that data and making it easily consumable and understandable by managers, engineers, and quality professionals.” That’s where InfinityQS quality management software systems come in.
 

Consistency

There are version consistency and overall consistency, or standardization. First, the version: Simply put, with SaaS, everyone who uses the system uses the same version of the system. No questions asked. Regular software updates are shared by all, helping you maintain a level of consistency across your organization that was once considered a pipe dream.
 
Overall consistency is another animal altogether. Centralizing your quality data, which we discussed in Unified Database above, is the easiest way to standardize. Standardizing naming conventions (product codes, feature names, lot number formats, etc.) is crucial. Not only does it ensure a common code of communication across all your plants, but it supports system-to-system integration, and enables simplified high-level reporting and data analysis across all plants. And it limits the confusion that is so common in organizations today—the confusion that is the result of individual plants who do not comply with standardization in systems, naming conventions, and standard operating procedures (SOPs).
 
When naming conventions are standardized, your quality management system can easily aggregate data across production lines and plants, providing corporate-wide quality insights that are generally impossible to uncover without standardization.
 

Increased Security

SaaS solutions offer extensive application and data security, reducing vulnerability from cyber threats.
 
InfinityQS utilizes Microsoft Azure for our cloud solutions. Microsoft Azure provides a secure foundation across physical, infrastructure, and operational security. Microsoft invests over a billion dollars every year into security, including the security of the Azure platform, so that your data and business assets can be protected.
Secure and Reliable Cloud Technology

Always Available

InfinityQS has leveraged many of Microsoft Azure’s high availability and disaster recovery features to make our SaaS products highly available even when disaster strikes. Multiple instances of our SaaS software are installed and operating, in multiple data centers, so if one instance fails the client never sees an outage. By running our software across different Azure Availability Zones our software protects companies from losing information or availability during the loss of a specific data center.
 
We feel real-time quality monitoring is mission critical for our clients and want to make sure it is highly unlikely that they will lose access to our quality management software solutions. We also stay informed of new ways to improve the security, availability, and reliability of our SaaS solutions.
 

Zero Hardware

That’s right, in addition to no up-front capital outlay to purchase server hardware (to which we alluded in Easy Deployment above), you also don’t have to replace it every few years! Let’s face it folks, hardware wears out and becomes “outdated” more and more quickly these days. Why not let someone else take on that burden?
 
With a SaaS solution, there are no costly server hardware replacements every 5-7 years like you find with on-premises solutions. When the hardware needs replacing, the folks who operate and maintain the cloud do all that.
Decision Making on the Plant Floor

In Closing

Manufacturing needs to move more quickly to adopt new technology. SaaS technology is the answer for many manufacturers. It just makes sense. The power, flexibility, and versatility of the cloud have become essential to manufacturing survival.
 
InfinityQS SaaS products, Enact® and ProFicient on Demand, offer cost-effective ways for your organization to improve its quality efforts and keep your business competitive.

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