In the past, I’ve written on Innovation Excellence about how lowering barriers to entry in the manufacturing industry can accelerate the pace of manufacturing innovation. Once, I reported on how opening up product creation in manufacturing to crowdsourcing would make it easier to create products that consumers want. Another time I discussed how manufacturing specific technologies were leading to an age of DIY manufacturing.
Today, I want to discuss the lowering of barriers to entry for manufacturing software development. Recent developments in Cloud computing have made it much easier and cheaper to develop manufacturing applications. The latest development in Cloud computing that is spurring innovation in the manufacturing software industry is platform as a service — or (PaaS) to manufacturing software.
How PaaS Will Spur Manufacturing Software Innovation
If you’re unfamiliar with platform as a service, consider the analogy of the iPhone and it’s accompanying app store. You can think of the iPhone as the development platform. To create an app, third-party developers only need access to the platform and can immediately start creating an app. In other words, developers don’t have to spend time building the underlying technology. Instead, they can start building an app much more quickly and cheaply. And once they’re done building the app, it’s automatically available for download anywhere in the world.
PaaS offers third-party developers in the enterprise the same conveniences. By building applications on top of widely-used platforms like NetSuite’s SuiteCloud, developers bypass long development cycles because the PaaS vendor has completed most of the underlying engineering work. PaaS also allows manufacturers to:
- Upgrade manufacturing add-ons before vendor releases.
- Purchase a wide diversity of apps that are designed to be interoperable.
- Get third-party developers to quickly build customized solutions.
Because PaaS helps lower the cost of developing complex manufacturing applications, it is also making them more accessible to the small to medium-sized manufacturer so they can access technology once concentrated in the hands of the few.
Three Apps Making it Happen
I’d like point out three apps that I recently came across that are taking advantage of the PaaS opportunity. These apps are notable because they open up access to high powered applications that were not previously accessible to many manufacturers.
JustEnough – JustEnough is a demand planning solution that uses the SuiteCloud platform to extend functionality of the NetSuite Manufacturing Edition. To be fair, demand planning is not a new application. However, allowing manufacturers to integrate a demand planning solution into a Cloud ERP system is new. The fact that manufacturers can connect demand planning to solution to their core ERP for as little as $249/month is also a big change in the industry since it previously cost thousands of dollars in upfront investment to purchase such an application.
Arena PLM – Arena PLM allows manufacturers to monitor the full lifecycle of their production — from schematic to end product. It can be used to track items from suppliers, manage supply chain availability, and track regulatory certificates to ensure the end product meets regulatory requirements. Again, it’s a big deal because it opens PLM to the small to mid-sized manufacturer, which they’ve historically been priced out of.
Rootstock – Rootstock is notable as one of the first software vendors that was able to create a Cloud-based material requirements planning (MRP) solution. This in itself is impressive because of how complex MRP is an application category — and analysts used to believe it impossible to put in the Cloud. You can read more about the complexity of this application category here. Beyond that, because Rootstock makes the app available via PaaS, Rootstock can upgrade its MRP application much more frequently than on-premise vendors. This means that it can be tweaked to fit a particular production scenario much more easily for custom manufacturing environments.
The impressive thing is that we’re really only at the beginning of this kind of development and PaaS is just starting to mature. As it matures, we’ll likely see much more innovation in manufacturing software — and that innovation will change the way manufacturers consume and use manufacturing applications.
image credit: pcmuseum.ca
Derek Singleton is an ERP Market Analyst at Software Advice. He writes about various topics related to ERP software with particular interest in the manufacturing and distribution software markets and Online Marketing.