The Manufacturer talks business agility, cost optimisation and the power of technology with Dominik Wee, Managing Director, Global Manufacturing, Industrial and Transportation at Google Cloud.
The Manufacturer: Business leaders today have to make difficult choices about which projects to prioritise. How is this impacting their approach to cloud?
Dominik Wee: We’re seeing organisations embrace cloud as an immediate cost reduction reaction and risk mitigation measure through enhanced security and uptimes, and now more than ever as a platform for innovation.
As businesses consider how to weather the road ahead, many are finding they need to make tough decisions regarding resource allocation.
For most, it’s not simply about spending less. It’s about knowing which projects to prioritise – even if with limited funding – in order to maintain business continuity and ensure longevity.
However, evaluating which projects will generate the right business outcomes and cost efficiencies is easier said than done.
Manufacturers must consider a specific set of challenges, including:
- Unpredictable trading conditions – Businesses must keep pace with dramatically changing requirements. To innovate quickly, IT teams need solutions that decrease their time-to-market, while also providing the agility and scalability to address any requirement thrown their way.
- New investment needs – Organisations must adapt to new business models while also ensuring that their teams have the necessary tools to be productive from remote locations. IT must now prioritise projects that weren’t in the budget to ensure the business’ survival and workforce productivity.
- Limited visibility and control – Not every business has a complete picture of its IT spend to make educated decisions about where and how to reduce costs, or whether to reinvest in other strategic areas. IT needs granular visibility and intelligent services that take the guesswork out of cost and resource optimisation, while also providing robust governance that reduces the risk of overspending.
In terms of how a business should allocate resources, we recommend participating in an IT cost assessment, looking to move workloads to cloud and then prioritising initiatives, starting with business continuity initiatives, followed by operational efficiencies.
What will the ‘new normal’ look like following COVID-19?
That’s a great question, and one everyone is looking for the answer to. One way we’re helping solve for this is by working with our customer, Rolls-Royce.
The company has invited a group of leading companies, including Google Cloud, to collaborate with them on Emergent Alliance, a new alliance of data analytics experts challenged with finding new, faster ways of supporting businesses and governments globally as they recover from the economic impacts of COVID-19.
By bringing together datasets that wouldn’t normally be released outside of an organisation or industry’s domain, we can open up the realm of possibility and innovate for a better tomorrow.
With better data, we can provide better insights meaning better outcomes for all. It’s my hope that collaboration and partnerships like this will increase in future.
Mural on a Google Data Centre. Image: Google Cloud
On the topic of big data, what role do you see technology playing in terms of alleviating human workers from time-consuming admin tasks, and allowing them to focus their time on higher value activities?
The destabilisation in industrial supply chains leads more and more manufacturers to bring production activities closer to home. The higher cost of doing business more locally means we will see manufacturers rely heavily on artificial intelligence (AI) and automation to drive lower cost with higher quality.
Automation and AI can help free workers from repetitive processes, re-assign workers to distanced stations and monitor machines remotely. For example, factories can run with limited capacity, using visual inspection and remote machine monitoring.
Here are just a few ways we’re offering these technologies to help businesses focus on high value activities:
Contact Center AI offers human-like interactions that are redefining the possibilities of AI-powered conversation.
Dialogflow, our suite for building natural and rich conversational experiences across multiple channels, is creating ever-more sophisticated virtual agents capable of conversing naturally with customers and expertly assisting human workers on complex cases.
These virtual agents identify customer intent and determine what to say and do next, providing customers with 24/7 access to immediate conversational self-service. Furthermore, agent assist provides employees with continuous support during their calls by providing real-time, step-by-step assistance.
Vision AI comprises two digital solutions that use machine learning to help businesses understand their images with industry-leading prediction accuracy.
Using AutoML Vision, organisations can automate the training of their own custom machine learning models. Or they can take advantage of the pre-trained machine learning models in our Vision API to assign labels to images and quickly classify them into millions of predefined categories.
GlobalFoundries, a leader in the semiconductor manufacturing industry, has used AI to transform its manufacturing process.
The company used our AutoML Vision to build a visual inspection solution that can detect random defects in wafer map and scanning electron microscope (SEM) images, which are essential pieces for semiconductor manufacturing.
External view of a Google Data Centre. Image: Google Cloud
How are you helping industrial businesses to migrate to cloud without disrupting day-to-day operations?
We’ve helped businesses of all sizes take advantage of the cloud for everything from migrating on-premise environments for scalability and enabling entire workforces to embrace remote working, to decreasing infrastructure overhead and costs through reduced on-premise hardware footprints.
We’ve designed a managed service that can quickly migrate applications running on VMware to Google Cloud. This process can significantly reduce a VMware environment total cost of ownership versus on-premises costs.
We’ve also developed approaches to migrating systems of record to the cloud with a 46% lower three-year cost of operations (IDC Research, June 2020).
Data is another place where the cloud can help organisations be more efficient and drive meaningful cost savings. Businesses that switch to our data warehousing solution, BigQuery, can reduce their overall three-year costs by 52% when compared to on-premises (ESG Report, March 2019).
Interoperability between different systems can be a challenge for businesses. Google Cloud’s open application platform Anthos ensures data harmonisation across existing on premise and hybrid cloud scenarios and allows for enriched, real-time business intelligence.
It unites Operational Technology (OT) under a single platform, allowing it to behave and operate like cloud-based IT. This allows manufacturers to connect OT from their facilities around the world with central IT systems and extract data holistically.
For example, a manufacturer could use Anthos to combine data from different production sites, plants and machines.