In recent years, we’ve heard a lot about cloud computing, but its role in the manufacturing industry is not always clear. Manufacturers are not known for investing heavily in the latest technologies on a regular basis, so why are so many now deploying cloud-computing software in their organizations?
As industrial automation becomes more intelligent and manufacturers embrace machine-to-machine technology, cloud computing is set to become the obvious solution to store and manage the ever-growing expanse of production data. Aside from increased storage space, the cloud helps manufacturers reduce costs, change business models, provide new services, increase agility, optimize performance and ultimately drive profitability.
Performing a meaningful evaluation of a manufacturing facility’s energy efficiency is only possible when energy consumption figures are available in a complete manner. To make sense of the copious amounts of data produced on the shop floor, many manufacturers are deploying energy data management systems (EDMS).
Generally, an EDMS is set up locally and embedded into the existing information technology (IT) infrastructure, but a number of different scenarios are available, including moving the EDMS to the cloud, a possibility which enables company-wide analysis of energy data.
By embracing the cloud, manufacturers no longer simply collect data but instead gain actionable insights from it. Whether it’s for quality improvement, sales forecasts or preventive maintenance, predictive analytics or machine learning can give manufacturers an edge over their competitors and possibly a new service to sell.
Although the benefits of moving to cloud computing are clear, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an easy decision for manufacturers to make.
For some employees, there is an inevitable fear surrounding the idea of storing production data off-premises. Although concerns about data loss, security breaches and lack of data ownership are all valid, these fears aren’t as justified as they might seem.
Most cloud providers have invested heavily to ensure the infrastructure is safe and resilient to any attacks. For example, Microsoft’s cloud platform, Azure, is ISO 27001-certified and offers disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS). By automating the replication of your factory data, these types of cloud platforms provide a secondary data center to act as your recovery site. This means that even in the unlikely event your data is lost, it isn’t gone forever.
Moving to cloud computing isn’t just about moving data storage offsite. Used correctly, the cloud can enhance an organization’s performance in production, efficiency and its entire business model. With so much potential, it’s hard to see why any manufacturer wouldn’t consider cloud computing.
Johannes Petrowisch is a global partner and business development manager at COPA-DATA, an industrial automation software expert.