For leading manufacturers, a more resilient and sustainable future starts with Azure

After a year fraught with new challenges and disruption, manufacturers are not just returning to business as usual. Instead, leading companies are going beyond return-to-work to focus on innovation, resilience and sustainability to create true factories of the future. While the global health crisis amplified the critical role that manufacturers play in society, some businesses stalled while others were able to accelerate changes to their business end to end. Cloud transformation is the first step to securing future success.

Christoph Berlin

Christoph Berlin.

Currently, 96% of manufacturers use cloud technology or plan use it in the near future. Additionally, by the end of 2021, IDC FutureScape predicts, 90% of all manufacturing supply chains will have invested in the technology and business process necessary for true resiliency, resulting in productivity improvements of 5%.

From intelligent factories to optimized supply chain, one platform is helping manufacturers realize factory-of-the-future success and pave the way for the fourth industrial revolution: Microsoft Azure. With technologies like open industrial IoT, advanced analytics and AI, Azure is empowering organizations to unlock their greatest potential.

Whether applications for manufacturing use cases are built in house, delivered by partners or delivered by Microsoft, Azure is allowing manufacturers to scale quickly and efficiently. Here are a few examples of how leading global manufacturers are employing the power of Azure to pave the way for enhanced productivity—and a more resilient and sustainable future.


DHL is revolutionizing logistics through their sustained innovation in supply-chain management. While DHL’s red-and-yellow package delivery vehicles may be a familiar sight, what may be less familiar is DHL’s long-standing reputation as a supply chain leader. From demand volatility to SKU proliferation, manufacturers are facing increased risk to their supply chains. New customer demands across globalized channels have amplified supply chain complexity, where a lack of real-time insights can lead to operational disruptions and rising costs.

How can manufacturers reduce risk while also enabling a flexible and resilient supply chain? With real-time visibility and intelligent planning. DHL is also using Azure to make better-informed decisions by analyzing, predicting and acting on insights from their own supply chain.

Now, DHL is transforming the industry with its “warehouse as a service” approach. Using both in-house solutions and technology from partners like Microsoft, DHL is scaling its AI-driven logistics model to more than 2,000 warehouses and 10,000 vehicles around the world to support business-to-business, business-to-consumer and direct-to-consumer logistics.

Today’s supply chains are moving toward collecting more data about warehouse and logistical activity using digital tools and processes. DHL is taking this data-focused approach even further—developing a digital supply chain model that translates physical assets into digital information. The goal? To create a plug-and-play, fully digital warehouse that can be implemented across their global operations.

DHL is making the “digitalized” supply chain a reality by charting a path that advances from employing tools and processes that enable digital logistics to a fully automated warehouse that puts products in customers’ hands faster.

“I think of supply chain in the future as ‘supply chain in a minute.’ If a customer comes to us and has a new product that they want to launch, we are able [to]—within minutes, hours, maybe days—set up a whole new supply chain so that they can sell that product to their customers, and that the customers have their products in their hands the next day,” says Markus Voss CIO & COO, DHL Supply Chain.

By creating a strong infrastructure to take AI from proof-of-concept to company-wide implementation, DHL has been able to advance their warehouse operations while becoming more sustainable—and accelerating their ability to respond.

“Books have not yet been written on what we’re doing,” says Fekko Roelofs, global program manager, Robotics Platform, at DHL Supply Chain. “That requires partners like Microsoft that are able to start thinking about where we want to move without having anything already in your hands.”

Stanley Black & Decker

By adopting Microsoft Azure IoT Hub and Azure IoT Edge, Fortune 500 industrial tools and household hardware manufacturer Stanley Black & Decker is driving not only innovation but also efficiency and agility across its global network of more than 130 manufacturing plants.

In any market conditions, innovation is essential to stay on the leading edge. And in today’s ever-changing manufacturing landscape, it is more important than ever. Yet despite great strides in digital transformation, manufacturers often aren’t able to produce products that meet evolving customer demands, and new product introductions can come at a slow pace. With Azure, manufacturers can accelerate innovation with connected products and digital feedback loops to generate insights.

“Our initial POC focused on production quality,” says Sudhi Bangalore, chief technology officer for Global Ops, Stanley Black & Decker. “When we implemented Azure IoT Edge devices in three more factories, we shifted from a spot-oriented use case scenario to a program-driven, regional scenario focused on quality, productivity and asset uptime.”

The solution that Stanley Black & Decker created delivers IoT Edge insights from multiple types of IoT sensors operating on multiple pieces of machinery through IoT Hub to the cloud. There, the company’s front-end Live View application uses Power BI visualizations to drive real-time understanding—both on factory floors and at company headquarters—of a broad range of performance metrics. In this way, the company has created a standardized, at-a-glance dashboard that reports a factory’s overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and empowers employees to quickly make necessary adjustments to keep everything running smoothly.

“Just getting base-level insights of our assets and process is no longer good enough,” says Bangalore. “What produces the next unlock of value is translating these insights into ‘standard work’ that converts insights to action.”

Tetra Pak

With the help of Microsoft Azure, Tetra Pak, a global leader in food packaging and processing, is now able to better bring its vision for Industry 4.0 facilities to life.

As an ISA-95-compliant organization, factory-wide compliance is essential—especially in the networking layer. Yet the manual network topology management process Tetra Pak’s operational technology (OT) technicians had been using often led to unreliable data flows that made it difficult to consistently track compliance or to gain insights. Instead, the company needed an IoT edge solution that would secure connections between its production networks and the cloud to, in turn, transport machine data from the facility to the cloud and run software managed in the cloud on its edge devices in the facility.

Unplanned down time and production loss, high operational costs and faulty machinery can have a significant impact on equipment lifespan and overall revenue. IoT, cloud-based computing, data analytics, artificial intelligence and mixed-reality solutions can drive new levels of productivity. From securing connected assets to driving agility to increasing productivity, the opportunities for optimizing resource utilization with Industrial IoT and AI is essential for today’s manufacturers across all sectors.

Tetra Pak’s compliance requirements were the catalyst for a new Azure IoT Edge product feature designed specifically for the ISA-95-compliant manufacturing space.

“Microsoft listened closely to our security concerns and developed a new feature in Azure IoT Edge, called Nested Edge, that solved our ISA-95-compliance issues,” says Peter Stolt, director of digitalization and automation, Tetra Pak. “We’ve had the ability to get data up to the cloud for a while. But with Nested Edge, we can also centrally control what is on that edge.”

Today, the data Tetra Pak needs to operate its 24 smart factories around the world is connected to the Azure cloud and displayed in Power BI, and security managers no longer have to wait for an internal audit to assess and rectify compliance issues.

“The factories check each other’s performance all the time, and when they see a factory make positive gains, they will contact them to learn what they’re doing,” says Stolt. “The availability of this data drives that behavior very nicely.”

This access to rich insights at any time is helping Tetra Pak improve benchmarks toward the company’s total productive maintenance goals—for safer, more efficient, and more sustainable operations in its factories worldwide. And Microsoft Azure is helping them lead the way.