Defined as the ongoing automation of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices with the use of modern smart technology and autonomous systems, the transition to Industry 4.0 is continuing apace. Benefits range from higher speed, reduced waste, and increased energy efficiency, among others.
And as new technologies such as hyper-fast 5G connectivity, machine learning, and Internet of Things (IoT) are added to the mix, expect Industry 4.0 initiatives to accelerate.
The rise of industrial edge computing
One impact of the move towards Industry 4.0 is how it is fuelling the rollouts of edge deployments. Writing on a recent blog, my colleague, Kevin Brown, the CMO of the Secure Power Division at Schneider Electric noted that industrial operators who want to reap the benefits of increased automation can’t rely on cloud technology alone.
The reason is simple. The enhanced speed and performance that modern factories require calls for the use of edge computing. Certainly, a roundtrip to a remote cloud data centre will incur unacceptable levels of latency. Moreover, the demands of artificial intelligence and machine learning requires heightened processing and resilience that can only be properly met by computing infrastructure positioned close to the endpoint.
Edge computing solves this growing demand for localised computing power. In an industrial setting, such a deployment is referred to as the “industrial edge”. And the industrial edge has ample room for growth: Right now, just 10 per cent of enterprise-generated data is created and processed outside a traditional centralized data centre or cloud, according to Gartner, though it thinks that this figure will reach 75 per cent by 2025.
Finding success with the edge
So how can organisations roll out industrial edge computing? While the details are too complex for us to cover here, there are a few pointers to bear in mind. For a start, siloed technologies are no longer viable, and businesses must roll out modernised infrastructure to properly support industrial edge computing. Specifically, a new generation of applications calls for the ability to support IT/OT converged solutions at the edge.
It is worth noting that no organisation or supplier has what it takes to deliver a complete edge solution to customers. This means that integration work is required, which helps when the vendors are already collaborating. This is the reason Schneider Electric is collaborating with the likes of AVEVA and Stratus, worked to deliver best-in-class solutions and industrial edge computing reference design framework.
Indeed, an AVEVA distributor has already deployed one of these systems at the La Tortilla Company in the U.S., leveraging it to successful consolidate the disparate automation and control equipment there. This made it possible to improve operational efficiencies, culminating with a five per cent improvement in throughput. That is an additional 1.5 million tortillas per day!
Of course, it must be noted that every customer is going to be different in terms of their readiness for industrial edge computing, and their technical maturity and understanding of their operations. This means that there is no cookie-cutter approach is possible – depending on where they currently are, the steps required to move them forward are going to differ.
For now, you can read more about minimising downtime risk and deploying a resilient edge from this Schneider Electric white paper here.
Article by Michael Kurniawan, Vice President – Singapore, Malaysia & Brunei, Secure Power Division, Schneider Electric