[Africa Cloud Review] Simon Ngunjiri: Cloud is essential to modern-day manufacturing

The manufacturing sector in Africa plays a significant role in driving economic growth, job creation, and lifting people out of poverty. When the pandemic hit, the sector, just like all the other sectors recorded a massive decline in output. Manufacturers decided to prioritise cost reduction while at the same time increasing revenue.

With the Fourth Industrial Revolution underway, manufacturers as Francis Wainaina, Senior Product Manager at SEACOM East Africa said in a recent column are being pushed to embrace technological development – or risk losing business to more technologically advanced competitors.

One of these technologies is the cloud. Cloud technologies as Francis noted ‘’offer manufacturers a solution to this, providing speed, agility, cost savings, and innovation advantages that could accelerate the recovery of the manufacturing sector’’

Cloud has an increasing use in manufacturing business operations and production processes. In fact, as far as 2017, 25% of finished product inputs were made using some type of digital technology, such as cloud computing.

Efficient manufacturing Francis notes is about accomplishing more with fewer resources without compromising on quality.

‘’It is also about effectively managing communication between suppliers and distributors, streamlining production schedules through real-time and insight-driven monitoring, and minimising operational costs,’’ he says.

‘’Cloud technologies play directly into all of this, and while some of these capabilities are possible with on-premise systems, cloud-based systems are much faster and more cost-effective to roll out, enable easier customisation and flexibility, allow for scalability, and open the door for innovation’’ he adds.

Relying on the industrial cloud drastically reduces the cost of maintaining on-premise storage and computing resources by half.

According to an article published on Forbes,cloud-based systems are faster to roll out than traditional systems, making it easier for manufacturers to keep up with new developments. They are also easier to customize and scale, and they offer the potential to increase adoption rates across resellers.

The cloud indeed offers manufacturers scalability, operational efficiency, application and partner integration, data storage, management, analytics and enhanced security. At the most foundational level, P van Loggerenberg, Chief Technology Officer, SYSPRO notes that cloud computing influences how manufacturers manage their operations, from ERP and financial management to data analytics and workforce training.

Cloud has become a pillar of the modern business world, and the manufacturing sector is certainly no exception. To accelerate the growth of the continent’s economy through improved manufacturing capabilities, we need to follow international trends and take advantage of all the opportunities that cloud has to offer.

Simon Ngunjiri Muraya is Google Cloud Architect at  Incentro Africa.

[Column] Francis Wainaina: How cloud technology could transform manufacturing in Africa

Globally, the manufacturing sector plays a significant role in driving economic growth, job creation, and lifting people out of poverty. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, global manufacturing output has been in decline and Kenyan manufacturers say they are now prioritising cost reduction, increasing revenue, retaining jobs, and improving cash flow. At the same time, with the Fourth Industrial Revolution underway, manufacturers are being pushed to embrace technological development – or risk losing business to more technologically advanced competitors.

Cloud technologies offer manufacturers a solution to this, providing speed, agility, cost savings, and innovation advantages that could accelerate the recovery of the manufacturing sector as well as increase Kenya’s global competitiveness. The African Continental Free Trade Area, Kenya-USA Free Trade Area, Kenya-UK Free Trade Area, and the European Union, under the Economic Partnership Agreements, all present enormous export opportunities for our country, but our manufacturing sector cannot fully capitalise on these global markets without undergoing significant digital transformation.

Kenya’s vision

In 2008, the Kenyan government launched Kenya Vision 2030 with a long-term national development strategy to transform Kenya into a globally competitive industrial hub. Under the Big Four Agenda, the government hopes to increase the manufacturing sector’s contribution to Kenya’s GDP to 15% by 2022. 

The Competitive Industrial Performance Index Report (2020), which benchmarks our ability to produce and export manufactured goods competitively, ranked Kenya 115th out of 152 countries.  While this places us as a leader in East Africa, Kenya’s manufacturing sector still has a long way to go – and the pandemic has not made things easier. In May 2020, a KAM-KPMG survey showed that 53% of manufacturers were operating below 50% capacity during the pandemic. Although manufacturing’s contribution to GDP decreased from 7.8% in 2018 to 7.5% in 2019, the sector also saw an increase from KSh. 690.6 billion to Ksh. 734.6 billion in value added over the same period – largely due to increased output in the manufacturing of transport equipment, chemicals, and chemical products and pharmaceuticals.

The Kenya Association of Manufacturers developed the Manufacturing Priority Agenda 2021 to accelerate the recovery of Kenya’s manufacturing sector, with enhanced digitalisation as one of the seven key agendas to “enhance productivity, induce innovation, and enhance resource efficiency”.

The future of manufacturing

In the past, the prevailing winning strategies for manufacturers were large production sites, long product life-cycles, vertical integration, and a heavy investment in costly on-premise systems. But the face of manufacturing has changed, and today’s manufacturers do not only compete by the size and scale of their operations, but also by their speed and agility. For example, many plants today are distributed across the globe and dependent on a constantly fluctuating global supply chain, which necessitates more flexible and data-driven approaches to supply chain management. 

As is the case in most other sectors, the future of manufacturing now belongs to those who can successfully adopt technologies such as machine learning and automation, big data, or IoT. Cloud systems enable these forward-facing technologies, which is why 46% of respondents in Africa’s manufacturing sector, according to a study by World Wide Worx, reported an increased spend on cloud services.

Why manufacturers are using the cloud

Efficient manufacturing is about accomplishing more with fewer resources without compromising on quality. It is also about effectively managing communication between suppliers and distributors, streamlining production schedules through real-time and insight-driven monitoring, and minimising operational costs.

Cloud technologies play directly into all of this, and while some of these capabilities are possible with on-premise systems, cloud-based systems are much faster and more cost-effective to roll out, enable easier customisation and flexibility, allow for scalability, and open the door for innovation. Manufacturers often compete in highly regulated industries where being first-to-market is crucial, and cloud computing is making it possible for them to reduce the time it takes to conduct strategic sourcing, quality audits, supply chain management, optimisation, and more accurate forecasting.

Developing scalable manufacturing intelligence across various plants can be achieved at a much lower cost and with greater accuracy using cloud systems, which can provide real-time insights into production performance using one central dashboard. Cloud-based monitoring systems also allow production processes to be fine-tuned actively and with greater accuracy, making it easier to identify bottlenecks and make configuration changes from any location.

Legacy enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems that do not run in the cloud were not designed for complex compliance reporting requirements, which is becoming increasingly important in the manufacturing sector. Cloud computing is making it possible to integrate these legacy systems with the cloud and define entirely new metrics and performance indicators.

Unlocking Africa’s potential

As industries and businesses adapt to working in the digital-first world, digital transformation has become critical to success. Cloud technologies have become a pillar of the modern business world, and the manufacturing sector is certainly no exception. To accelerate the growth of Kenya’s economy through improved manufacturing capabilities, we need to follow international trends and take advantage of all the opportunities that cloud has to offer.

Francis Wainaina is a Senior Product Manager at SEACOM East Africa.

South Africa liquor company DGB taps clouds solution to bolster sales

In the highly competitive wine industry, producing great-tasting wines is not enough to ensure success. Without a super-charged sales team, even the best vintage runs the risk of gathering dust in a cellar. For DGB, a timely technology intervention has empowered a high-performance sales team with real-time insights into sales, orders and retail execution.

DGB is one of South Africa’s largest independent wine and spirit producers and distributors, operating out of the Western Cape. The company was formally established in 1990, although its roots stretch back more than 300 years when winemaking commenced at the historic Boschendal and Bellingham farms in the Cape Winelands.

Pieter Steyn, Commercial Manager at DGB, says the business faced several challenges that were undermining its sales efforts. These ranged from a lack of accurate reporting integration of master data across platforms, to timely placing of orders and missing data from surveys.

“It was also taking too long to add new customers to our database,” adds Steyn. “We needed a solution that would help improve product visibility in stores and ensure perfect store execution by sales representatives.”

DGB chose the SAP Sales Cloud Retail Execution (ReX) solution and worked with implementation partner Consnet to design and introduce the solution into the business. Despite the implementation of the solution being the first of its kind in South Africa, the implementation team managed to finish the high-level design, application setup, solution build and user acceptance testing within a mere three months.

According to Steyn, it was essential that the system could integrate all business functions and processes in real time to help manage the large team of salespeople effectively.

“By turning data into actionable insights, we increase our team’s productivity while also enabling better business decision-making based on accurate and real-time reporting data,” explains Steyn. “Within a few days of go-live, more than 1000 visits were completed, of which 946 were recorded as Perfect Score visits based on KPIs and store performance. This has enabled us to bring to life our core value of achieving excellence in every aspect of the business.”

Since the implementation of SAP Sales Cloud Retail Execution, DGB has been able to capture a multitude of orders via sales representatives and routed to the call centre via the new solution. “Sales managers also now have a view of their sales representatives’ movements for a day, and can track their visits and perfect store execution,” says Steyn. “This has helped drive the desired behaviour within our sales department and bring to life the benefits of the solution.”

Cameron Beveridge, Regional Director for Southern Africa at SAP, believes the implementation of the new solution has come at a vital time. “In light of the events of the past year and the ongoing disruption to business-as-usual, the ability to harness an effective sales team to build close relationships with customers has never been more important. The new solution, combined with the continued support of our partner, Consnet, will empower DGB with improved sales efficiency and, ultimately, deliver benefits to the business that will extend for years to come.”

www.dgb.co.za

www.sap.com

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Siemens and Google Cloud partner on AI-based solutions in manufacturing

Google Cloud and Siemens, an innovation and technology company in industrial automation and software, have announced a new cooperation to optimize factory processes and improve productivity on the shop floor.

 Siemens intends to integrate Google Cloud’s leading data cloud and artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) technologies with its factory automation solutions to help manufacturers innovate for the future. 

Data drives today’s industrial processes, but many manufacturers continue to use legacy software and multiple systems to analyze plant information, which is resource-intensive and requires frequent manual updates to ensure accuracy.

 In addition, while AI projects have been deployed by many companies in “islands” across the plant floor, manufacturers have struggled to implement AI at scale across their global operations.

For more than 170 years, Siemens has built its business on pioneering technologies that have led the manufacturing industry forward. By combining Google Cloud’s data cloud and AI/ML capabilities with Siemens’ Digital Industries Factory Automation portfolio, manufacturers will be able to harmonize their factory data, run cloud-based AI/ML models on top of that data, and deploy algorithms at the network edge. This enables applications such as visual inspection of products or predicting the wear-and-tear of machines on the assembly line.

Deploying AI to the shop floor and integrating it into automation and the network is a complex task, requiring highly specialized expertise and innovative products such as Siemens Industrial Edge.

The goal of the cooperation between Google Cloud and Siemens is to make the deployment of AI in connection with the Industrial Edge—and its management at scale— easier, empowering employees as they work on the plant floor, automating mundane tasks, and improving overall quality.

“The potential for artificial intelligence to radically transform the plant floor is far from being exhausted. Many manufacturers are still stuck in AI ‘pilot projects’ today – we want to change that,” said Axel Lorenz, VP of Control at Factory Automation of Siemens Digital Industries. “Combining AI/ML technology from Google Cloud with Siemens’ solutions for Industrial Edge and industrial operation will be a game changer for the manufacturing industry.”

“Siemens is a leader in advancing industrial automation and software, and Google Cloud is a leader in data analytics and AI/ML. This cooperation will combine the best of both worlds and bring AI/ML to the manufacturing industry at scale. By simplifying the deployment of AI in industrial use cases, we’re helping employees augment their critical work on the shop floor,” said Dominik Wee, Managing Director Manufacturing and Industrial at Google Cloud. 

www.siemens.com

cloud.google.com

[Column] Shanon Ramdaw: How the Cloud Transforms Manufacturers into Agile, Efficient Innovators

The demand for manufacturing organisations to be agile and efficient is higher in today’s technological world than ever-before. Rapid technological advancements, coupled with an uncertain and unstable economic and work climate, mean that organisations are required to remain adaptable, functional, and highly efficient from anywhere, at any time. 

Manufacturing organisation are being confronted with new a[nd intensified challenges within their day to day operations. These challenges could potentially be represented as issues with product personalisation, with an increasingly high demand for a quick turnaround on products that are configured and personalised. Businesses may also be struggling with project profitability, especially within the current economic climate and when faced with an intricate project that involves multiple product entities.

Further challenges may arise in the areas of global supply chain and supply chain collaboration. Here vendors and contractors require efficient and timeous methods in order to collaborate and track the flow of information and goods. Manufacturing organisations also need to be able to manage and maintain their service revenue growth, and to effectively manage and utilise their analytical data. 

“For business success in today’s modern world, especially with the rapid and increasing demands placed on organisations during the time of the Covid-19 Pandemic, shifting operations to the cloud instead of on-site applications can aid in increasing productivity, reliability and efficiency,” explains Shanon Ramdaw, Business Development Manager at iOCO, within iOCO Software Distribution, the local Infor Master Reseller.

Ramdaw confirms that Cloud based technological applications, services, and solutions, afford businesses the opportunity to optimise business processes, functionality, efficiency, and growth. This empowers manufacturing organisations with the ability to deliver the right information to the right place at the right time. Cloud-based operations allow for access to real-time data that can be accessed from anywhere and from multiple devices. This accessibility allows for quicker turn-around time on decision making processes, with instant and immediate access to relevant insights.

Utilising cloud-based services can additionally empower staff be to be more efficient, effective, and innovative. Work-life modernisation can be optimised when employees and decision makers have instant and in-depth access to accurate, real-time data. Efficiency is further increased through cloud-driven cross-functionally collaboration on product and business innovation.  

“Cloud based services such as Infor’s CloudSuite Solutions, ensure the streamlining of processes. This means that information processing and the information gleaned from relevant data is accurate and instant. The problem with manual and on-site systems is that the more complex the product or process becomes, the higher the risk of human error. Yet with cloud-based solutions this human error risk is practically eliminated,” continues Ramdaw.  

Cloud-based solutions give manufacturing businesses the advantage of being able to leverage and transform former technology efficiently through the incorporation of real-time data. Strategy and innovation can be optimised through product and project planning management. With cloud-based solutions, real-time data can be incorporated directly into the plan and the process of the plan can be continually and efficiently monitored. This allows organisations to adjust product and strategy plans more effectively allowing for adaptability and flexibility, while driving innovation, agility, and efficiency. 

The correct cloud-based solutions bring manual based process from outside an organisation’s digital ecosystem into it.  This offers manufacturing organisations powerful tools, meaning less time and money are spent on sourcing and managing information, and more time is spent on business growth, strategy, and innovation. “Complex products become easily configurable, solutions become readily available, and mobility and accessibility are enhanced. Therefore, businesses are able to become exponentially more innovative and agile in their manufacturing processes,” concludes Ramdaw.

Shanon Ramdaw is the Business Development Manager – Infor Services at iOCO, Infor’s Gold Partner in Africa.