Regardless of where you fall in manufacturing supply chains, you should take notice of cloud computing and its evolving impact on your customers, your suppliers, your productivity, and your bottom line.

Recently, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that ‘Procter & Gamble Puts Clamps on Web Surfing.’ According to the story, P&G has blocked Pandora and Nexflix based on bandwidth issues. It seems that so many employees have been downloading music and videos from the cloud that it was dramatically slowing down P&G’s network, impacting its performance and productivity across the enterprise.

But buried in the story are references to other issues that the cloud and Social Media access are forcing companies to deal with in draconian ways, and that all of manufacturing should be aware of.

I’ve written quite a lot about Social Media and manufacturing recently myself – hey, it’s what I do. But the truth is that many marketing and communications strategies for manufacturing are formed without first considering how they are actually being used (or not) by the most valued nodes in their supply chains. And never once have I ever mentioned ‘bandwidth,’ as P&G cites as its primary reason for limiting or shutting off access to the Web from its network.

But the Enquirer piece also goes beyond the bandwidth/IT issues and points out some interesting evidence from other local, large manufacturers and their motives for controlling Web and Social Media access for their employees.

  • “At GE Aviation, where 7,500 work, Pandora, YouTube and Facebook ‘are fundamentally blocked,’ said spokesman Rick Kennedy. Employees who need to use the sites for work can get access.” (I’d sure like to see GE’s definitions around what constitutes an ’employee who needs it.’ – AJ)
  • “Kroger restricts access to social media sites mainly because of the risks to Internet security, said spokesman Keith Dailey. Kroger employs 339,000 in the United States, but many are store employees or manufacturing workers who don’t have regular access to desktop computers at work.”
  • “At Cintas Corp., which employs 30,000 nationwide and 1,600 in Mason (OH), most social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, are blocked, said spokesperson Heather Maley. ‘Bandwidth is a precious commodity,’ she said, and all Cintas computers are connected to central servers in Mason.”
  • “TriHealth, which runs Good Samaritan and Bethesda hospitals and employs 10,400, blocks all social media sites except for YouTube, which is used for employee training, said spokesman Joe Kelley.”

So here are 5 companies with varying levels and states of Internet-access policy, all tailored to their business goals and cultures. Now, ask yourself about all the companies you believe your marketing and promotional strategies are actually reaching, and how they’re really using the Web for their jobs.

Or better yet, ask them. Uh, you HAVE asked them … right?

Any Social Media strategy should begin with a survey or (at the very least) a random sampling of customers and prospects to determine who’s there, who’s not, motivations for determining internal policies, and future plans for adopting or utilizing Social Media platforms.

There’s no question that the game’s changing quickly. Bandwidth issues will be dealt with and will become less of an issue.

But things like productivity, security, industry directives, and internal guidelines are gonna be around a lot longer than bandwidth limitations.

Whether you’re determining if a Social Media strategy is right for your business (and you ABSOLUTELY should be) or if you’re already in the thick of it, you’d be wise to get a handle on your customers’ and prospects’ plans & proclivities.

Don’t get burned by a clamp down you didn’t even see coming.