The machine and equipment builder (OEM) market is highly competitive, with expectations of ongoing price/ performance improvements in each generation. Customers are recognizing the need for machines that are connected, flexible, scalable, and smart, to support the ongoing Industry 4.0 revolution that is combining physical operations with digital technology and big data to create a more holistic ecosystem. There is a constant tension between incorporating these technology improvements while also keeping costs in line across design, engineering, and product management.
Embracing digital transformation enables machine and equipment builders to enhance design and supports the development of new services around equipment performance and maintenance. When implemented, Edge Computing can facilitate a smooth evolution from the equipment of today to digitally enabled machines that end customers are requiring to be able to integrate into their connected operations. This includes multiple capabilities such as on-premise or cloud connectivity to fully integrated smart machines that embrace digital transformation without the need for complex retrofitting and redesign in the future.
What is Edge Computing?
Edge Computing is a scalable modular technology that supports the development of standardized, compatible software components and applications to increase efficiency. It can help enable equipment manufacturers’ existing applications—such as monitoring and control software—to be consolidated onto a single platform while enabling other critical applications, like Historian, MES, and OEE/Performance Monitoring to run on the same platform. This makes it easier to develop Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)-enabled smart machines and equipment, and to easily add future applications that support customers’ evolving Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing demands.
Now is the Time for Edge Computing with Smart Machines
The OEM market is entering a period that will bring as much change as the introduction of the PLC. Edge Computing is a critical technology that will enable this transition without adding insurmountable engineering challenges. Edge Computing platforms will play an integral role in expanding the traditional control and automation capabilities of equipment. They will also provide the bridge for equipment manufacturers to embrace digital transformation initiatives for themselves and to integrate with initiatives of their customers.
Edge Computing Platforms Must be Simple, Protected, Autonomous
There are three key tenets that govern effective Edge Computing platforms. You should keep these considerations in mind when selecting the right platform:
An Edge Computing platform should be easy to install and deploy in minutes with an easy-to-use and intuitive management interface. In the case of redundant systems, if a unit needs to be replaced, restoring a system to full operation should require only a single button push.
The platform should include embedded security features and offer seamless failover in redundant systems in the event of a failure, or if the platform proactively detects an upcoming problem. It should be industrial grade to withstand the extremes in temperature, vibration, and humidity prevalent at the hazardous and remote locations where it is installed.
An Edge Computing platform should be remotely managed, either through a cloud service, or it can be embedded into an equipment builder or customer management solution through a set of standard Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).
In the same way that machine automation, using PLCs and PACs, revolutionized equipment design more than 40 years ago, Smart Factories and Smart Manufacturing are evolving the industrial world again. Applying digital transformation concepts enables companies to operate at peak performance by leveraging the data collected by control systems and sensors, enabling OEMs to enhance design, and supporting the development of new services around equipment performance and maintenance.