Global manufacturing companies have realized good results by adopting cloud-based applications, and they plan to accelerate cloud use dramatically by 2017, especially in their manufacturing, engineering and operations groups, according to a study conducted in conjunction with the Manufacturing ISV Cloud Summit, sponsored by Salesforce, San Francisco; ICIX, San Bruno, Calif.; Propel, San Jose, Calif.; Rootstock Software, San Ramon, Calif.; and Tavant Technologies, Santa Clara, Calif.

Some of the biggest benefits have come from lower IT costs, higher employee productivity, better data visibility and gains in process automation.

Perhaps the study's most intriguing implication is that as these companies move their operations, engineering and manufacturing to the cloud, platforms originally developed for sales and marketing such as Salesforce may become the backbone of all enterprise software.

During the summit, manufacturing professionals were asked how enterprise cloud apps like Salesforce, Workday and NetSuite were being used in their manufacturing businesses.

Key findings from the survey include:

Manufacturing companies have reaped big rewards and lower costs from their early internal cloud adoption. Over 60% of respondents said cloud apps have helped them realize internally focused benefits. Higher employee productivity, process automation, data visibility and lower IT costs ranked as the top cloud benefits.

The shift to cloud solutions will accelerate quickly. Eighty percent of operations departments, 70% of engineering groups and 59% of manufacturing departments expect to grow their use of enterprise cloud apps dramatically by 2017.

IT decision-makers in manufacturing, operations and engineering have been more cautious than their marketing and sales counterparts in adopting cloud platforms. Only 19% of manufacturing, 20% of operations and 25% of engineering departments are currently using enterprise cloud apps.

"Manufacturing and operations professionals have clearly realized that building on one common cloud platform throughout an enterprise has enormous benefits, including improved productivity, better automation of information sharing for improved decision-making and greater transparency," says Brian Roufa, chief marketing officer for ICIX. "With this significant shift in the industry, companies are now moving more and more of their core business functions to the cloud, and are choosing strategic cloud platforms such as Salesforce on which to run their business."

"While sales and marketing teams have been using the cloud for years, the survey indicates that engineers now feel that it's their time to start enjoying what the cloud can do for them," says Miguel Tam, vice president of marketing at Propel. "With world-class cloud platforms like Salesforce, manufacturing companies don't have to worry about data security or reliability. Enterprise engineering solutions like Propel, which is built 100% on the Salesforce platform, make it possible for manufacturers to collaborate much more closely with customers, partners and employees, so they can deliver great products."

"Adopting cloud technologies across departments makes it much easier to realize the full benefits of the cloud," says Rajendran Nair, vice president of marketing at Rootstock Software. "Just as marketing needs to know what happened to the leads it passed, sales needs to know what happened after they closed deals and operations needs to know what's coming down the pipeline. Companies need a unified cloud platform that spans the spectrum of their internal and external operations, and allows data and processes to span multiple solutions that are on this platform. We believe Salesforce and its large network of partners such as Rootstock, Propel and ICIX provide an unmatched ecosystem that will deliver on the true potential of the cloud."