In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, engineering and operations leaders are now seeking ways to achieve business continuity while optimizing peak performance under incredibly dynamic conditions. Even as some organizations scale back operations, OT leaders are actually leaning in to adopt new approaches that could provide business advantages in the near future.
This does not mean their tolerance for risk increases, however. Safely maintaining or scaling operations requires capabilities that enable greater and more reliable remote and secure monitoring and control of critical systems. But there are potentially massive opportunities to re-engineering their supply chain processes or enabling remote monitoring and control in the new normal that we’re experiencing.
This new reality points to the potential benefits of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Edge Computing, which are being realized within industrial automation projects worldwide. Edge computing platforms collect, organize and analyze data from sensors and process data on site in real time without concerns over latency, while connecting critical applications with critical equipment and enabling advanced and remote monitoring and control.
This distributed computing model automates core processes and helps ensure availability. This enables manufacturers – at a local facility or plant-level – to remotely drive operational efficiency and performance safely while freeing limited personnel to focus on higher-value activities.
Under normal circumstances, pivoting would include extensive planning and pilot programs. So, how can engineering and operations leaders move quickly while being confident they are implementing the right approach to remote monitor and control?
We Have Four Suggestions to Help Companies Achieve Business Continuity and Move Forward Confidently
1. Identify a key process to be virtualized
Identifying high-touch repetitive processes that can be better addressed as an automated process is an underlying tenant of industrial automation. Virtualization enables multiple processes to simultaneously run on a single platform. These virtualized machines deliver tremendous benefits in terms of manageability while establishing a future-ready solution that supports ongoing industrial automation and larger digital transformation efforts.
2. Bring IT onto the team
Operations technology (OT) and information technology (IT) silos can hinder success. The complementary skillset and insights IT offers can help ensure a successful deployment and uncover additional areas of benefit. Of course, there is a lot to be said about OT/IT convergence and organizational changes and challenges. However, today’s situation warrants an “all hands-on deck” mindset focused on the immediate operational needs of the facility or plant.
3. Choose the right edge computing platform
Total cost of ownership (TCO), service, and support are all key factors when selecting an edge computing platform. Nearly 300 respondents to a recent study conducted by Stratus and CFE Media also pointed to the following five attributes as essential when choosing an edge computing platform.
- Ability to self-monitor and self-diagnose
- Possess built-in pre-integrated physical and cybersecurity
- Proven high availability with little to no downtime
- Easy to install and maintain
- Support for a wide range of applications.
Safely and efficiently maintaining or scaling operations requires capabilities that enable greater and more reliable remote and secure monitoring and control of critical systems. Production environments and supply chains can more dynamically respond to demand changes with the help of edge computing.
4. Integrate IIoT with modern monitor and control software
IIoT-enabled devices, such as sensors and programmable logic controllers (PLCs) improve manufacturing processes when they are combined with modern monitor and control software powered by edge computing. This combination enables real-time data to be converted into actionable insights that drive specific actions with little human interaction. This also opens the possibility of bridging from the edge to the enterprise and, when needed, the cloud.
Solving Today’s Challenges to Prepare for Tomorrow’s Success
The world-wide COVID-19 pandemic demands companies and people think and act differently in the face of challenging circumstances. For many, the key to business continuity is maintaining operational levels while our most critical resource – people – have been constrained by necessary social distancing practices and work from home requirements.
Companies who continue to invest in capabilities that allow them to respond to changing customer needs, are better able to manage production changes and drive operational excellence in any condition.
These companies come through difficult times stronger.