Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Precast Supply Chain Management: The Use of Cloud Computing Technology

The concept of Supply Chain Management (SCM) was originated in the manufacturing industry with the objective to increase both efficiency and effectiveness, to achieve organizational goals, and lead to greater synergy.[1] However, poor integrations and lack of collaboration are the major obstacles within the precast construction projects.

As the article pointed, within the precast supply chain, the main barriers can be concluded as the following items: the poor planning and scheduling, high cost of precast concrete components, the poor design, lack of architectural creativities, the poor production timing, large size and heavy precast components, wrong deliveries, poor on site coordination and collaboration, poor specialized contractors and lack of good communication among parties. As the potential construction collaboration tools, the aim of exploring the proper use of cloud computing technology is to set up a system needed for an effective communication and accessing to up to date information.

Cloud computing are collections of distributed computers like data centers and serves delivering on-demand services and resources over the internet. [2] The three general types of cloud computing services models are:

1) Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
The processing features, storage capabilities, selection of operation system, servers and networking fundamentals will be served to the users via the cloud providers such as Amazon web services and Salesforce.
2) Platform as a Service (PaaS)
A platform for developing and operating the applications will be served to the users via the cloud providers such as IBM and Microsoft Azure.
3) Software as a Service (SaaS)
The users will have the opportunity to serve an application. While as, they don’t have any control on the processing features, storage capabilities, selection of operation system, servers and networking fundamentals.

The most impressive and innovative point of the cloud computing, as I see, is that by using this technology, all precast supply chain parties and the project shareholders will have the opportunity to cooperate, integrate improve the productivity and collaborate efficiently compared to the traditional approaches and processes. In fact, it assists the users to implement the applications with no concerns regarding to the installation which allows them on accessing to their various data through the internet on any computer or mobile devices. Just recollect the experience when you use the Apple products by connecting to the iCloud, it can be told that the feeling of being able to access to all the data or information you want by using any Apple products you have is actually great.

Let’s just go back to 1997 years and recall what Steve Jobs said. When Carly Simon sang the words "…they were clouds in my coffee" in her 1972 megahit, "You're So Vain," the notion of industrialized cloud-based computing was several decades in the future. Steve Jobs, speaking at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in 1997, alluded to the fact that the concept had actually germinated some 10 years earlier. Steve Jobs' vision was prescient relative to what we now think of as cloud computing. He was arguably the first to see the huge promise and seismic shift brought on by the advent of device-independent data accessible from anywhere, at any time, on any type of technology.

As the internet, email and other technologies have become ubiquitous, the expectations of consumers have grown correspondingly. Today's companies are increasingly global and complex, with competition growing on every front and acquisitions that change business processes taking place with astonishing frequency. The precast construction industries associate with many processes, various information and numerous parties which have single objective, which means to attain efficiently and effectively, the precast construction project objectives based on the assigned time, specified budget and standard quality with considering the safety parameters, the choice and execution of the collaboration tools is highly significant.

In the following 5 minute animation, Stephen Fry explains the history of computer thinking and the revolution of utility in cloud computing. This video, produced for UK data centre and data barracks, brings us from the invention of the abacus in 2700 B.C through to the possibilities offered by cloud computing today.

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[1] Harland, C.M., “Supply chain management: Relationships, chains and networks”, British Journal of Management, (1996) Vol. 7, No. s1, pp. S63-S80.
[2] Sultan, N. and Bunt-Kokhuis, S.V.D., “Organizational culture and cloud computing: coping with a disruptive innovation”, Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, (2012), Vol.24 No. 2, pp. 167-79

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