Professor Xun Xu of the University of Auckland, New Zealand, is considered one of the pioneers in the field of Cloud Manufacturing. Professor Xu is focusing his research on the transformational benefits to businesses via Cloud Manufacturing. He is confident that this new approach would drastically transform the traditional manufacturing business globally. Let us learn the ins and outs of Cloud Manufacturing from the expert himself.

What is Cloud Manufacturing?

Professor Xun Xu defines Cloud Manufacturing as – “A model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on demand network access to a shared pool of configurable, manufacturing resources (e. g. manufacturing software, equipment and capabilities, as service entities) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”
In other words, cloud manufacturing is a better, more efficient and cost-effective way to manufacture products and a paradigm shift from physical product manufacturing to service-oriented business models. For example, earlier if a business needed 100 coffee machines for its offices, the only choice was to incur capital expenditure to purchase the machines, manage, and maintain them through their life. But not anymore! Today, the business can employ a service provider to not only install 100 coffee machines but also manage and maintain them. If a better model of the coffee machine becomes available, the service provider is expected to replace all the old ones with the new model. There is no need to invest money upfront or recruit and employ a dedicated person to manage the coffee machines.  
In Cloud Manufacturing, distributed resources are encapsulated into cloud services and managed in a centralised way. These resources provide on-demand services for highly customised manufacturing needs at varying production scale. Industry 4.0 is widely considered as a key enabling technology for cloud manufacturing. Service Science, Management and Engineering (SSME) provides important scientific basis for cloud-based manufacturing.
As a service-oriented networked manufacturing model, cloud manufacturing requires and relies on several other key technologies such as Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) and manufacturing data management. Cloud manufacturing extends some of the existing advanced manufacturing models and technologies such as agile manufacturing, web-based manufacturing, and manufacturing grid. Cloud manufacturing adopts the “Manufacturing-as-a-Service (MaaS)” concept.

Advantages of Service-Oriented Business Model-

To service users

  • Financial flexibility – shift from capital expenses to operational expenses – such as coffee machine service for business as explained above.
  • Business agility – pay as you go and pay only for the services you use.
  • Instant access to innovation – access to most advanced resources e.g. the latest model of the coffee machine.

To service providers

  • Access to a large pool of customers – share manufacturing resources with more customers.
  • Improved productivity – better utilization of manufacturing resources.
  • Business management agility – real-time visibility to market changes.

Professor Xun Xu – Biography

  • Professor Xu received his undergraduate education from Shenyang Jianzhu University and master’s degree from Dalian University of Technology, P. R. China, respectively. In 1996, he received a PhD from the University of Manchester, UK.
  • Professor Xu has been working at the University of Auckland since then as a Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Associate Professor and now Professor. His teaching at the Department of Mechanical Engineering cuts across several fields, e.g. mechanical engineering design, manufacturing systems, advanced manufacturing technology, manufacturing information systems and advanced CAD/CAM/CNC.
  • Professor Xu’s main research focuses are on computer-aided design, process planning and manufacturing, specially STEP-compliant CNC (STEP-NC), cloud manufacturing and Industry 4.0. 
  • He published a paper in January 2012, titled “From Cloud computing to Cloud manufacturing”. This paper has remained to be the most cited and downloaded article since 2013.
  • Some of the recent research undertakings of Professor Xu are: Cyber-physical production system, Industrial Internet of Things and additive manufacturing.
  • Professor Xu serves as an Associate Editor and a member of Editorial Board of several international journals and has published some 260 research papers.
  • He is the Fellow of American Society for Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and the Fellow of Institute of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ).

Professor Xu’s Achievements in the field of Cloud Manufacturing

  • Professor Xu leads the Intelligent and Interoperable Manufacturing Systems (IIMS), a research group established in 1999. It is one of top research teams in the world working on smart machining (e.g. STEP-compliant design and manufacturing), service-oriented manufacturing (e.g. cloud manufacturing) and customer-centric product design (e.g. product configuration and additive manufacturing).
  • Professor Xu is the founder of Manuclouds, an online Cloud Manufacturing Forum. Manuclouds presents the most comprehensive information about R&D activities in cloud manufacturing. 
  • He has also set up the first Industry 4.0 laboratory in New Zealand in 2016. It is known as Laboratory for Industry 4.0 Smart Manufacturing Systems (LISMS)


What is Manuclouds Forum?

Manuclouds Forum is a global organization dedicated to supporting R&D innovation on Cloud manufacturing. It provides researchers from industry, academia, and research institutions, a common platform comprising of like-minded individuals to network and collaborate with.
Interested stakeholders from the manufacturing industry can gauge the commercial viability of upcoming technologies and look for opportunities to employ them in the industry. In short, the forum brings all the stakeholders together.
This union of the researchers and industry is essential to the development and adaption of the next generation technologies such as Manufacturing as a Service (MaaS). MaaS will allow manufacturing companies to “virtualize” manufacturing resources and offer them as consumable cloud-based services over the Internet.
Users can also find out about the research activities, latest developments, upcoming events and conferences etc. on the Manuclouds forum.


Cloud manufacturing is changing the way manufacturing enterprises will conduct the business in future. It will transform the traditional manufacturing business model, help align product innovation with business strategy and create intelligent factory networks that encourage effective collaboration.
According to Professor Xu, companies can come together to share resources and take on more complex and substantial projects. It can be a win-win situation for businesses in countries with many SMEs to take on big projects.
Under the able guidance of researchers and visionaries like Professor Xun Xu, manufacturing industry is just about to witness a metamorphosis. Initiatives such as Manuclouds Forum, Laboratory for Industry 4.0 Smart Manufacturing Systems (LISMS), Intelligent and Interoperable Manufacturing Systems (IIMS) research group are the stepping stones in this direction.
Watch the Manuclouds forum for advancements in this space and visit now to witness cloud manufacturing in action!  

Use Cloud Manufacturing!


Cloud Manufacturing – Professor Xun Xu from Manuclouds on Vimeo.