Modernize manufacturing environments with edge computing

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Modernize manufacturing environments with edge computing

By Dayna Klein, Global Marketing Campaign Manager at Stratus Technologies

Automation and smart manufacturing have done much to improve the overall productivity of discrete manufacturing plants and facilities. Coordinating the management of personnel, work procedures, material handling, and automated equipment can be complex, which is why increasing digitalization and use of data for visibility and insight are essential.

Smart manufacturing encapsulates the use of sensors and entire systems that have become more intelligent, with increased networking and vast amounts of available data. Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Industry 4.0, and digital transformation are a few of the principal trends describing the ubiquity of devices and the increased connectivity to those data sources in the manufacturing environment. Add in advanced analytics and manufacturers can capture crucial insights that inform users on how to improve operational efficiency and reliability.

First, manufacturers must capture critical operational data reliably and process it locally without latency, especially when facing bandwidth constraints. This is driving the need to deploy computing power – edge computing – into environments close to crucial equipment and processes, such as the factory floor or embedded on a machine or part of a production line.

For discrete manufacturing companies, building a resilient and future-proof Edge Computing infrastructure is essential, whether the goal is to enhance the intelligence of a single machine, optimize a production line, streamline an entire factory, or elevate enterprise operations.

Edge computing is foundational to solving smart manufacturing challenges

Manufacturing is complex, with many moving parts to track, ranging from multiple departments and personnel to vast amounts of critical data, technology, and equipment. Leveraging a simple, protected, and autonomous Edge Computing platform enables manufacturers to meet the digital transformation demands of smart manufacturing.

An edge computing platform helps organizations to:

  •       Eliminate unplanned downtime and maximize availability
  •       Seamlessly deploy and integrate a modern manufacturing stack 
  •       Simplify, standardize, and scale deployment
  •       Achieve KPIs and reduce total cost of ownership (TCO)
  •       Adhere to IT security standards

Edge computing also bridges the gap between OT and IT

End users, OEMs, and SIs have expended significant effort to customize, integrate, and support OT/IT solutions. In recent years, Edge Computing has emerged as an essential intermediate technology, effectively bridging and overlapping both OT and IT environments.

OT personnel in discrete manufacturing must be able to focus on OT tasks. However, they are often at risk of playing an IT functional role in troubleshooting industrial PCs or aging servers. They additionally must work with IT counterparts to select manufacturing applications and capabilities to progress operations and deliver value.

Conversely, IT expertise is valuable to the deployment of infrastructure for operational requirements. An area of intersection is often associated with control rooms and enterprise servers, which are the IT foothold in the OT world. IT benefits OT by bringing its skillset and tools, including cloud services, to the manufacturing environment.

Although different, these domain priorities are intertwined with one another – the combined expertise of both OT and IT enables integration between new software and OT production processes as well as improved data-driven decision-making, which in turn enhances productivity.

Industrial hardware, software, and communications technologies have improved greatly over the past decades, but standard OT-based products have fallen short as complete smart manufacturing solutions. Greater data connectivity and processing capability is needed at the edge to support both OT and IT smart manufacturing roles.

Edge computing platforms are filling these roles by providing a reliable, easily supportable, and OT-capable solution in a compact form factor. Edge platforms meet the IT-based computing, communications, and cyber standards needed to overcome challenges and create truly smart manufacturing solutions.

Even more Edge computing benefits

A modern Edge computing solution must be much more than an off-the-shelf server installed on the plant floor and more convenient to use than a complex server configuration in a data center. Edge applications demand fit-for-purpose hardware with native redundancy suitable for the plant floor or on-site data cabinets. Provisions for managing these platforms must be comprehensive yet easily used by site personnel. Virtualization is also key for deploying the variety of applications needed for smart manufacturing and should be readily available.

Manufacturing specifiers and designers should focus on edge computing platforms with redundancy, management, and virtualization provisions to deliver the simple, protected, and autonomous computing needed to overcome smart manufacturing challenges and deliver valuable results.

Manufacturers are modernizing with Edge Computing

Enterprises looking to optimize operations need to implement data-driven smart manufacturing, which is almost impossible when using a patchwork of custom and partial solutions. End users need a comprehensive and user-friendly Edge Computing platform that has proactive predictive capabilities that resolve issues through continuous monitoring and self-healing mechanisms, will be able to consolidate multiple applications into a single redundant device, and is scalable so they can start with a single installation and then scale it up to extend successes.

Therefore, your edge computing platform must be:

  • Simple: Easy to deploy, install, manage, and scale up over time, and designed with a zero-touch approach.
  • Protected: Robustly built for reliable operation in field environments, with native redundancy to reduce operational and financial risk.
  • Autonomous: Deliver constant availability, both for the hardware itself and the applications it runs, with extensive remote management provisions.

Edge computing can help manufacturers enhance the intelligence of a single machine, optimize production lines, streamline entire factories, and/or elevate enterprise operations. With an Edge Computing platform, manufacturers can realize the full benefits of digital transformation and smart manufacturing to drive reliable, efficient operations at all levels.

Leverage the Stratus “Monitor & Control EDGEucation Hub” to help overcome the challenges of digitalization.

About the author

Dayna Klein is a Global Marketing Campaign Manager at Stratus Technologies and has over 20 years of experience in the IT/Tech, healthcare, education, entertainment, travel, financial services, retail, restaurant, and media industries.

DISCLAIMER: Guest posts are submitted content. The views expressed in this post are that of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Edge Industry Review (EdgeIR.com).

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