As manufacturers intensify their efforts to reduce costs while improving quality, productivity and traceability (data), the need to quickly implement purpose-built software solutions that not only solve problems, but that also comply with corporate regulations and strategies becomes critical.
With the advent of cloud computing, many companies are considering this approach as a cost-effective alternative to the high upfront investment, including ongoing maintenance and hardware costs, that are common for locally hosted solutions. That being said, for Manufacturers facing complex regulatory requirements like ITAR (International Traffic And Arms Regulations), this may not be allowable. It’s this complexity that has led leading solution developers like VKS (Visual Knowledge Share) to offer their powerful solutions in both cloud and locally hosted configurations.
So, Why SaaS May Be Right For You?
In the “old days” of software, companies large and small required expensive server infrastructure to manage and run the various software applications critical to business operations, meaning along with the high upfront investment in the software itself, companies spent big on hardware, redundancy and maintenance.
Along with the expense, came limited ability for remote access, so many times the people interested in the information needed to be in the same building, or network to access the information. In this article, we’ll take a look at how computing has changed with SaaS, and determine if it is a good option for your organization.
What is SaaS And How Does It Work?
Saas, or Software as a Service changes that model completely. Investopedia defines Software as a Service (SaaS) as “… a software licensing model, which allows access to software a subscription basis using external servers.”
The SaaS (cloud) software model essentially provides access to applications, data and computing capacity over the internet, instead of your company’s network or even your own personal computer, therefore millions of users can access an application centrally hosted, through their own personal portal. So, assuming everyone reading this post, appropriately written using Google Docs, has at least some understanding of the cloud, we’ll transition to discuss the main benefits of adopting Saas.
*In case you didn’t know, Google Docs is SaaS!
1. Low Initial Cost
Moving critical software to the cloud can generate significant savings for your organization from multiple sources. Eliminating the upfront investment for the purchase and installation of server infrastructure is obvious, but when maintenance costs including software and system upgrades are included, the savings can be huge.
In addition to the concrete savings the SaaS model provides, many application providers operate under a subscription, or pay-as-you-go model, meaning users pay for the capabilities they need on a recurring, often monthly basis. This brings us to the next benefit the SaaS model has to offer.
2. Short Implementation Time
Under the SaaS model, small and growing enterprises can more easily leverage SaaS software solutions to compete in the marketplace without risking significant investment. And, in a world where time is money, the simplicity of implementation for SaaS solutions, which can be as simple as a URL and login credentials, can be quite appealing. One thing to watch out for is how user-friendly is the SaaS you are going to acquire as this will translate in training time for your employees.
J.D. Mercier-Montminy, a carpentry teacher at CVCEC, explained that one of the biggest advantages of the VKS software is being able to use it without being, as he said, “a tech person.”
In many use cases, the ability to easily scale departmentally, across a facility or even to multiple facilities is critical and could be prohibitively expensive and complicated with on-premise solutions. SaaS solutions, by design, are web and often browser-based providing users access to the utility from anywhere that has an internet connection.
Additionally, the ability to flex between different levels of software capabilities and user licenses provides an effective, quick and cost-effective way to deploy scalable software solutions.
SaaS applications usually offer access to their platforms from any device and browser. For example, you can open VKS in a browser, easily start creating Guidebooks and share them across all users right away. When working remotely, VKS can be used on a tablet or computer, depending on your resources giving your users more options, therefore accessibility.
Since all businesses strive for growth and higher quality outputs, the need to add more users, devices or functions grows too. As your business expands, you can easily add more functionalities (i.e. VKS Smart Forms) with the VKS Pro module where you benefit from the collection of all relevant data in real-time. VKS SaaS gives you the opportunity to add new data capture points as your enterprise operations increase in no time.
Data drives an increasing amount of decision making in business, which means we need purpose-built software applications that can easily and automatically share collected data across platforms. SaaS applications leverage APIs (Application Program Interface) which are sets of requirements that determine how applications communicate with each other. You likely use APIs daily without even knowing it.
To illustrate this, think of all the tools, machines & other software you have integrated into your business operations. With VKS Enterprise you can capture and correlate data coming from all this equipment through the open API. Now you have crucial raw data that can easily be manipulated and organized in meaningful reports.
Read how with VKS DataConnect you can benefit from data integration and manipulation.
The SaaS model, like any other, will have some risks to be considered before leaping into adopting it. Here are three main ones we keep bumping into even in 2020. As Industry 4.0 continues to unfold in the business and especially the manufacturing world, these drawbacks may disappear or aggravate.
By far, the biggest concern I hear from customers and prospects is the security risk associated with SaaS, and the concern is clear. Rather than controlling your data locally, by your organization, SaaS data is stored offsite by a vendor.
The result is a compromise between the benefits noted earlier, and the risk (or perceived risk) associated with relying on others to secure and backup your data. For this reason, it is imperative that your IT team fully qualify any provider to ensure adequate data security protocols are being followed and adequate redundancies are in place.
Dependency is about availability, and even with the best SaaS providers, outages will occur. These outages can have many causes, some unscheduled, and other scheduled in the event of upgrades and enhancements to hardware or the application itself. Customers can be left without access to important applications during these outages so it’s important to understand their methodology for notifying you of scheduled downtime.
Access to your data in the cloud remotely is a huge benefit, but many times internet access on-premise can be a limiting factor.
In the example of a manufacturing plant, office areas typically have great WiFi coverage, but this coverage wanes as you venture out to the shop floor. If access to the application or the data requires wireless access, this could become a serious inconvenience and limitation. Solving this could require minor infrastructure improvements to limited areas, or in extreme cases costly and extensive changes to the facility.
Considering SaaS Benefits and Risks
Organizations have a lot of different reasons for choosing a specific model for implementing software solutions which is why at VKS, we offer both approaches.
The key to success here is understanding the benefits and drawbacks of each approach and determining which approach provides the best balance of capability, risk and ROI to give your organization the biggest competitive advantage for the best price possible.