Enhancing Smart Manufacturing with Resilient Edge Computing Infrastructure

OT and IT teams are deploying continuously available, zero-touch Edge Computing infrastructure, transforming operational data to enhance productivity and drive reliable, efficient operations with less cost and less risk. 

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 discrete manufacturers can capture crucial insights that inform users on how to improve operational efficiency and reliability. But first, manufacturers need to capture critical operational data reliably and process it locally without latency in the face of bandwidth constraints. This is driving the need to deploy computing power – Edge Computing – into environments close to critical equipment and processes, such as the factory floor or on a machine or production line.   

Whether the need is to improve the intelligence of a single machine, a production line, an entire factory, or enterprise operations, resilient and future-proof Edge Computing infrastructure is essential for discrete manufacturing companies.   

Read more and discover how to overcome the challenges discrete manufacturers face when implementing smart manufacturing and how simple, protected, and autonomous Edge Computing platforms are a requisite to solving production challenges, accelerating digitalization, and establishing reliable infrastructure that supports Industry 4.0 software and applications.   

Photo of automobile production line. Welding car body. Modern car assembly plant. Auto industry. High-tech factorySmart manufacturing challenges for discrete manufacturers 

Taking the next steps toward optimized smart manufacturing provides numerous benefits, but also represents a commitment of talent and cost. Below are some of the most prevalent challenges faced by manufacturers implementing digital transformation.  

  • Deploying a modern manufacturing software stack 
  • Standardization and scalability 
  • Maintenance and support 
  • Cybersecurity 
  • Availability of IT skills in operations 

Although the challenges listed above seem intimidating, manufacturers have successfully managed them and achieved smart manufacturing improvements by leveraging reliable Edge Computing platforms.  A portrait of an industrial man and woman engineer with laptop in a factory, working.

Edge Computing is foundational to solving smart manufacturing challenges 

Discrete 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)  
  • Adhering to IT security standards 

Bridging 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 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 enable integrations 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, including:  

  • Unified connectivity with OT and IT devices, new and old  
  • Data aggregation, storage, contextualization, and preprocessing 
  • Improved operator visualization experiences, especially when using mobile devices 
  • Remote access for support of equipment by specialists, regardless of where both are located 
  • Hosting analytics and applications for determining KPIs, OEE, asset utilization, production performance, predictive maintenance, and more 

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. 

Discrete 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 to support these efforts, one that is scalable so they can start with a single installation, and then scale it up to extend successes. Therefore, Edge Computing platforms 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 

For leaders in the complex discrete manufacturing environment, Edge Computing platforms bridge OT and IT so they can realize the full benefits of digital transformation and smart manufacturing.

Stratus Edge Computing platforms meet this need for both the production floor and the data center, and are purpose-built to drive reliable, efficient operations at all levels. Stratus ensures the continuous availability of production-critical applications by delivering zero-touch Edge Computing platforms. 

 For more information about Stratus Edge Computing platforms, please contact us here today 

 About Stratus 

For more than 40 years, Stratus has provided highly reliable and redundant computing systems and expert services to complex and constrained operational environments, enabling partners and customers to securely and remotely turn production data into actionable intelligence so they can run operations safely, reliably, and efficiently.