Manufacturers and factories may look like they’re constantly on the cutting edge of automation and technology, but the truth of the matter is, their excitable adoption of new hardware hardly matches the rather luke-warm reception new software receives. And one can hardly blame them. The industry is often so focused on efficiency that there’s hardly any patience for the loss in productivity that would surely follow if they had to adapt to new software. Just look at the popularity of legacy software in the manufacturing industry to get a glimpse of this trend.

However, the light growing pains that come with new software adoption is a drop in the bucket compared to the efficiency and savings that could be had if factories just weathered that short storm.

Fortunately, for every bombastic new tech implementation that requires hefty investment such as automation and AI, there’s also a more cost-effective optimization that can be made such as implementing industrial grade computers and, more importantly for today’s topic, software as a service programs. 

According to a study by IDG, 2021 is expected to see an increase of 9.2 billion in industry cloud spending and a major contributor to that bump is the popularity of software as a service applications.        

What is Software as a Service?

Software as a service (SaaS) refers to software distribution where a provider hosts applications online for a customer to use freely. Often the software is licensed on a subscription plan as part of a larger cloud computing program- a program in which important system operations such as data storage, computing power, and even software are made available on-demand online, eliminating the need for direct management from the user.

SaaS is an alternative to downloading software directly onto a server, desktop computer or mobile device. Luckily enough, many of the pieces of software manufacturers already use- from office software and communications to finance and asset management, are already offered over the cloud as SaaS.

That’s all well and good, but what does it offer specifically for the manufacturing sector and, more importantly, what are the pros and cons of SaaS over typical downloaded software.   

What are the Pros?

Save Time and Resources

In regards to factories, SaaS is so helpful because it allows manufacturers to quickly implement new, ready-to-use software with minimal IT resources and investment. This can be very encouraging for factories that, like we mentioned, are laser-focused on daily efficiency and value. 

Additionally, this ease of roll out also takes much of the burden of managing this software off of your IT team’s plate, freeing them up to focus on more important matters such as your cybersecurity and mission-critical manufacturing systems.  

Cut Costs

On the topic of easy installation, factories and business owners can save considerable money on the upfront cost of purchasing and installing software themselves. Much of the software currently available as SaaS are offered on pay-as-you-go models, allowing users to only pay for the months the software is being used. Many providers also allow users to pay only for the features they use.

Software as a service also eliminates the need for external hardware and peripherals since many programs are designed to be run remotely without extra installations on the part of the end user.  

Factory-Wide Compatibility

In the conventional method of downloading software, each individual computer or workstation outfitted with the program needs to be updated manually as updates are released. Sounds simple enough, right? Unfortunately, this can turn the factory floor into a breeding ground for compatibility issues since many employees don’t update their systems at the same time, regularly, or even at all. 

Over the cloud, however, program manufacturers are able to update all users across the board at the same time, meaning everything from your industrial tablets to your control panels can all be updated at the same time. 

Draw Valuable Data and Insights

For factories and manufacturers, optimization and streamlining are the name of the game- and to that end, data is incredibly valuable. Fortunately, SaaS allows many factory owners to pull in data with little effort. 

Since software that is hosted online is usually run through a centralized hub/data center, capturing data for analytics use is quite simple for the end user. Many providers even facilitate the use of this data by giving users access to intelligence tools such as performance tracking and reporting dashboards.

What are the Cons?

Security Concerns 

The most prominent concern for businesses when it comes to using software as a service is the security of their company information. After all, we’re talking about some pretty sensitive information that’s being entrusted to and stored by a third party service. Some reservations about the security of that data is completely warranted. 

One of the most notable benefits of using SaaS programs is the fact that they can be accessed on any device without any installation. Naturally, this can quickly become a security issue when you consider ex-employees and people who need to have access to that critical data revoked. 

It would do you well to have a system in place for immediately deprovisioning employees once you need them to be denied access to company software. 

Communication Between Multiple Programs

As versatile as SaaS programs can be, the odds are likely you’ll be utilizing more than a couple to truly optimize your business. It’s important, however, that all of these different programs can communicate and share data with each other, otherwise you’re looking at a lot of downtime as information needs to be manually inputted from system to system. 

Data Mobility and Ownership

SaaS is a quickly expanding market and many are looking to break into it. That being said, there are several startups getting their feet wet, many of which will succeed, but many of which will also unfortunately fail.

Speak with your SaaS provider about a prospective exit strategy and the ease with which they can help you transfer your data to your next provider should something go sour.  

 In terms of data, you’ll also want to ensure you own the data being produced within your chosen SaaS program. With some providers, you may be surprised to hear you aren’t actually designated the rightful owner of that data. Always be aware of data ownership terms when negotiating a service level agreement with your SaaS vendor.   

What Tech is Needed?

The beauty of SaaS is that it requires very little effort from its end user, and that goes for hardware as well. All that’s really needed is the right computer and a reliable internet connection.

As far as tech is concerned, realistically, the most important thing is a robust server with some sort of redundancy built in (whether that is an internal data backup, or one that is hosted at a 3rd party data center). Once that is in place, any mini-rugged computer or desktop computer in the facility can be connected to the server, and access the SaaS software. 

Whether you go computer or tablet, prioritize connectivity. Look for a hardware solution that has 3G/4G LTE connectivity, enabling you access these programs and your crucial operations even disconnected from the internet. This can be especially helpful in large facilities where WIFI access can be spotty a best. 

Computer and tablet models with fanless cooling can also ensure your devices run efficiently for longer without having to worry about circulating harmful contaminants in the surrounding air that are common in highly volatile workspaces like the factory floor. After all, whether you’re using SaaS or traditional software, it can only do its job so long as your computers are up and running.    

Software as a Service Example

SaaS has already been implemented pretty consistently, and to great effect, in factories and manufacturing plants across several industries. In fact, the survey we mentioned earlier even highlights that, among cloud computing technology, SaaS is the most popular and is incorporated into 89% of all companies’ IT environments. Some popular examples include:

Manufacturing Execution Systems: A system used to track the production cycle from raw material all the way to finished goods

Remote Monitoring Programs: Programs used to monitor several remote systems across a factory floor to track assets and deliver real time analytics

Enterprise Resource Planning Software: Software used to automate everything from obtaining raw materials and managing relationships with supply chain partners to overseeing distribution.

Skills Management Programs: Programs used to manage the training and skills development of new employees and employees looking to transition into new roles within the factory. 


SaaS programs are only poised to grow further in popularity as time goes on. Before jumping the shark and deleting crucial software off your devices, however, do a little bit of homework. Learn which processes you can afford to offload to third party software providers and which you’d feel more comfortable having installed locally. For help determining what hardware can best fit your SaaS needs, contact an expert from Cybernet today.