How cloud takes the assembly line to new heights of responsive resilience

By | 2 minute read | January 1, 2021

Factory engineer at work

Infusing cloud in your operations allows an agile work experience for both the employee and business.

Imagine you’re a factory engineer. You’re building a new application that will dramatically improve efficiency on the line. But your antiquated setup means that every time there’s a software update, you need to walk around the plant—with a floppy disk—and manually install it on each machine.

Now imagine that with a click of a button, that same update is sent to all your machines, using what’s called a one-click deployment.

One click deployment

With one-click deployment you can update all your devices in real time.

That’s the difference moving a service or application to the cloud is making for factories today. Historically, when companies deployed applications using their own equipment in a data center, they had to make sure the processing power, memory, and server were all equipped to run the application effectively. Any small misjudgment could cause big problems that could cascade throughout the plant.

But with cloud, the resources are infinite.

“The nice thing about cloud is if you need more memory, or processing, or space…it can be dynamically allocated, so you never run out,” says Meek.

What does this mean for businesses? For a start, it’s greater speed, resiliency, and flexibility—something manufacturers need more than ever. Cloud computing also allows businesses to manage applications in one place, no matter where they’re deployed

And companies today are not just taking their production to the cloud, they are bringing cloud right to the factory floor. By bringing cloud intelligence to the edge of their IT networks, manufacturers can achieve a number of advantages, like performing predictive maintenance, improving quality, making decisions in real time, and keeping data more secure. AI inferencing at the edge also improves latency, allowing for faster automated decision-making while saving bandwidth costs.

Engineers in an auto factory

Intelligent manufacturing boosts quality assurance and reduces downtime if something goes wrong.

Take the example of an automotive company that’s making car parts on a manufacturing line, and each station is welding more items to the component. Intelligent manufacturing boosts quality assurance and reduces downtime if something goes wrong, achieving both at levels rarely seen before.

“If you have servers along the line, they’re looking to make sure that the parts are correct,” Meek said. “And if they’re not, it immediately kicks that part out. Rather than continuing to add value to a bad part further down the line, it happens in near-real-time at the point of manufacture.”

Cloudifying a plant allows businesses to reduce costs, realize higher value from data, and leverage automated one-click deployment. All of this adds resiliency to operations—which is becoming more important to companies under the everyday strains of just-in-time manufacturing, and especially during major disruptions like the global COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Benefits of Cloudifying

Cloud-powered applications can boost work throughout manufacturing.

“If plant engineers and operators can do things remotely, or socially distant, they have the ability to keep things running and keep things viable while they also are keeping their workers safe,” Meek said.

What’s next for Industry 4.0? Check out how multiple AI models are used to solve complex problems in manufacturing.

More in this series: