Cloud technologies are maturing to a point where they are becoming more relevant to the manufacturing industry. As cloud enterprise resource planning (ERP) options gain a stronger foothold in the enterprise, manufacturers are taking the technology more seriously. While most of the attention in cloud ERP focuses on the application, I think there are significant opportunities for manufacturers to make use of Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS).
In a recent conversation with analyst Brian Sommer of Vital Analysis, we discussed some of the benefits that PaaS can deliver to manufacturers. Sommer sees PaaS as a big deal because it 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.
Beyond that, PaaS gives third-party developers the ability to build complex manufacturing applications at significantly lower costs than before. In turn they can pass these savings along to the manufacturer.
Three Apps Capitalizing on the PaaS Opportunity
Although PaaS is becoming more meaningful to the manufacturing industry, only three vendors offer some kind of PaaS functionality to manufacturers: Salesforce via Force.com, NetSuite via SuiteCloud, and SAP via Business ByDesign. Although options are currently limited, I recently came across some apps doing impressive things with PaaS:
- JustEnough - JustEnough is a demand planning solution that uses the SuiteCloud platform to extend functionality of the NetSuiteManufacturing edition. While demand planning is nothing new in the software world, allowing manufacturers to integrate a third-party add-on to their cloud ERP solution 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.
- 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 - I first heard of Rootstock when I found out that its technology was OEM'd by NetSuite to offer MRP functionality (more) to NetSuite Manufacturing Edition. Since the app Rootstock makes available via PaaS is an MRP application, it doesn't necessarily extend a core manufacturing product. However, because it's built on PaaS, Rootstock can upgrade its MRP application much more frequently and tweak it to fit a particular production scenario.
PaaS in Manufacturing Moving Forward
I think that these apps are impressive examples of the potential of this technology. However, we're really only at the beginning of what's possible with PaaS. As Sommer said during our conversation, PaaS is changing manufacturing software from a purchase based on today's functionality to one that based on what can be envisioned for tomorrow.
Action Item: Where do you see PaaS going in the industry? If you have any thoughts, related to manufacturing or enterprise software more generally, please leave me a comment below.