Cloud, a key component in today’s increasingly technology driven plants, continues to evolve and offer manufacturers new ways to improve their business. In 2019, containers, improved security, enhanced availability, edge computing, and data management will enable goods producers to dramatically improve their manufacturing processes.
Manufacturers have been transitioning from a world where their success or failure stemmed from improving products or operations to a point where their future depends on how well they leverage technology. Traditional manufacturing systems were dumb so that businesses had little insight into their supply chain and operations. Now, just about everything is becoming smart, largely in part from features that cloud offers, so suppliers can run their operations more efficiently.
Cloud Application Design Embraces Containers
Traditional applications were monolithic. A programming team worked on one large blog of code. Developing, testing, and updating such programs was tedious and time-consuming.
Vendors have been breaking the blob up into pieces, a change that speeds up development. Rather than simply lift and shift existing applications to the cloud, manufacturers are taking advantage of containers and building applications for a cloud-native environment.
However, this approach is new and requires a learning curve, one mandating that businesses be patient, invest in training, and be open to new ways of operating. The corporations that take those steps will begin to see real payoffs in 2019: more rapid application enhancements, more flexible systems, streamlined operations, and higher quality products.
DevOps and Security Merge
Security was the top concern (78%) of German plant managers, according to in a DCX Technology survey. One reason why applications are vulnerable is security has often been added at the end of the development cycle. Because security was not integral to the applications, holes arise.
Increasingly, best practices recommend that security be codified into applications at the start of the process. In a DevSecOps scenario, new tools automatically bake security into agile development process via automated systems. The changes lessen the potential of significant breaches and enable IT teams to spend less time troubleshooting potential system problems and more time enhancing their manufacturing applications. Here again, the improvements mean change, so businesses need to become comfortable with the novel approach.
Cloud Improves System Availability
For manufacturers, money is lost whenever their computers go down. Keeping systems running has been challenging because of the underlying complexity found in computer infrastructure.
Cloud helps businesses enhance system availability. Vendors invested billions of dollars in their system infrastructure and constructed leading-edge systems with multiple layers of resiliency, including sophisticated disaster recovery functions. Those features are one reason why Worldwide DRaaS revenue reached $3.0 billion in 2018 and is expected to rise to $5.4 billion in 2022, a 16.2% CAPR, according to International Data Corp. (IDC).
The Rise of Edge Computing
Spurred by the Internet of Things, edge computing has been gaining traction. Market research firm Grand View Research, Inc. projects that spending on edge devices will reach $3.24 billion in 2025, a CAGR of 41.0%.
Sensor suppliers are adding intelligence and wireless connections to their devices so manufacturers collect more real-time performance information. For instance, conveyor belt sensors gauge device performance as well as wear and tear. These new features are the foundation for predictive analytic solutions, which shift device maintenance from a reactive to a proactive posture, enhancing system availability, lowering costs, and improving production runs.
The ecosystem needed to deliver such capabilities is just beginning to emerge. Many of the more sophisticated features are in an early stage of development. Consequently, manufacturers may need to take on development and integration work in order to put all of the pieces in place.
Data Management Gains Importance
As technology becomes smaller and more intelligent, manufacturers gather more data, which is becoming the oil of the 21st Century. The growing volume of information provides manufacturers with the ability to streamline operations, but it also creates challenges.
Data is being dispersed. Increasingly, it is being generated and stored in multiple clouds. Managing information is becoming a more daunting task. Consequently, companies need to understand where the data is located, who has access to it, how it needs to be processed throughout its lifecycle, and perhaps most importantly how to protect it as it moves from place to place.
Real World Example
Cloud has been moving from the theoretical to the deployable. Tesla is a good example of the potential that manufacturers have to leverage cloud for ongoing improvement.
Every vehicle manufactured continuously collects data from 8 onboard cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors, radar, and GPS. This data is sent back to the Gigafactory, the company’s core platform. Processing and analytics at the core provide insights into the workings of the car. Tesla determines why, when and where it needs to send over air firmware updates for remote modifications and fixes (performance, reliability and operational efficiency).
The system learns from the data and applies the best lessons to new product designs. For example, the Model 3 has a much more efficient structure, enabling Tesla to build 250,000 units per month compared to 50,000 per month for the Models S and X. Cloud advancements make similar benefits possible for other manufacturers.