What can edge computing do for the production line?

Posted on 26 Nov 2021 by The Manufacturer
Partner Content

Manufacturers across industries are facing an inordinate amount of pressure to automate. Between pandemic-related fluctuations in consumer demand and the myriad causes of labour shortages, shop floors of all sizes need ways to streamline and simplify operations.

“Automation” is an all-too-easy answer to this complex challenge.

As far too many manufacturers have had to learn the hard way, even if you are trying to collect vast amounts of data, it isn’t always clear what to do with it.

So, it’s worth considering, in the most practical terms possible, why manufacturers need technology like edge computing in the first place.

More precisely, if your shop floor made the most of edge computing, how would it actually improve your business?

Five business-wide shifts made possible by edge computing

  1. Live dashboards – This is typically the starting point on transformation journeys for manufacturers. The first step is to remove the manual actions required of employees to report on the various stages of the production line.

That means logically and painstakingly connecting the various disparate systems and industrial machines spread across the floor.

This seemingly monumental measure isn’t just necessary to make production counts a little easier. It’s also the foundation for a more reliable, accurate and real-time view of bigger issues such as availability.

  1. Faster progress – One of the key obstacles for IT in manufacturing today is the amount of time it takes to roll out changes and updates across the various machines that make up the shop floor.

In large part, this is because these machines come from different manufacturers and even different countries. But it’s also because IT must account for the various interdependencies between these machines every single time.

With a single software-based environment set up to connect all these machines, updates that would have taken weeks can now take a matter of minutes.

  1. Intelligent uptime – Imagine a food and beverages manufacturer is faced with the challenge of dramatically improving a site’s output.

Leaders of this business need to consider how they can optimise the shop floor to improve production volumes and even variety. The causes of bottles necks and downtime are difficult to identify.

But if your shop floor is managed by a single platform, you can more accurately monitor the interdependencies between systems. And over time, start to rely on specialist applications such as anomaly detection to rapidly highlight minor deviations that could have a big impact.

  1. De-risking innovation – One of the biggest reasons manufacturers need to consider a common platform approach to automation is to eventually help them start paying for innovation and progress as an operational cost rather than always relying on large capital investments.

With edge computing, manufacturers can take advantage of the Software-as-a-Service model at a far greater scale than they’ve ever been able to.

Technology investments can then scale up and down precisely when the business needs them to (even responding seasonally, if needed).

And innovation can happen in a way that suits the CFO.

  1. Focused collaboration – Perhaps the greatest value edge computing offers is that it creates a single environment where IT, OT and technology partners can collaborate based on a common view of how the line is actually performing.

Rather than IT and OT leaders working on fundamentally different projects, they can look at the same problems and model solutions together, combining their expertise.

The result is that with every team free to work flexibly and get the data they need, the business as a whole can make faster, more focused improvements.

Siemens IE Image courtesy of Siemens

Would your shop floor improve with edge computing?

No matter how big, small, young or old a business is, the success of a manufacturing unit depends on the cohesion with which the disparate parts of the system work together.

Edge computing helps silos collaborate around a dynamic, accurate view of the production line, efficiently coordinating updates across the production line.

Industrial Edge from Siemens is an open edge computing platform consisting of Edge devices, Docker-based Edge apps, standardised Edge connectivity, and a central management system.

To learn more about Industrial Edge from Siemens and how it’s helping manufacturers gain tangible value from their data, read our eBook here.