Experts Weigh in on the Benefits and Opportunities of Industry 4.0 and the Importance of Industrial Edge Computing

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I recently moderated a LinkedIn Live Innovation Talk on Industry 4.0 and the rise of industrial edge computing. The panelists and I discussed the best ways to be agile and efficient in a fast-paced, digital world as comments flooded in real-time from around the globe. Like a distant echo from the ‘80s, I could hear Ferris Bueller say, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Life is moving faster than ever and so is our dependence on IT. If you want to capture all the benefits of technology — speed, security, scalability, reliability, and more — it’s pretty clear it will require more computing and IT at the edge, close to the end-point generating the data. That’s why industrial operators who want to reap the benefits of increased automation can’t rely on cloud technology alone to bring the resiliency and speed demanded by artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other Industry 4.0 technologies. Edge computing solutions solve this need for localized computing power to help accelerate your business, and in industrial environments, this application is referred to as the “industrial edge”.

Only 10 percent of enterprise-generated data is created and processed outside a traditional centralized data center or cloud, and this figure will grow to 75 percent by 2025, according to Gartner. With that in mind, I met virtually with Sophie Borgne, SVP of Digital Plant Line of Business at Schneider Electric, Tim Black, Global SI/OEM Program Director for AVEVA, and John Vicente, Chief Technology Officer for Stratus Technologies. We wanted to have a conversation about what’s really happening in the industry.

Benefits Companies Can Expect from Industry 4.0 Innovation

At a time when uncertainty has become commonplace, Sophie Borgne discussed how operations and control professionals are facing many challenges related to CapEx, OpEx, and continuous improvement priorities.

“Industry 4.0 transformation is an opportunity to transform their industrial operation into smart operations,” she said. “Through digitization they can enable and benefit from agile production, optimized scheduling, and a truly digital supply chain.”

She specified higher speed, waste reduction, and energy efficiency among those benefits. To her, the bottom line is industrial end-users and machine builders are seeing a significant impact on variable and fixed production costs while running more robust and higher quality manufacturing.

Just like Ferris Bueller’s roundtrip from the suburbs to the big city in a borrowed red Ferrari wouldn’t be tolerated, neither will a roundtrip to a cloud data center and back when latency is the enemy.

Three Major Points for Digital Transformation Success

For success in digital transformation, John Vicente stressed three major points: customer maturity, partner ecosystem, and converged IT/OT.

When it comes to customer maturity, he acknowledged that you must know where your customer is on their journey.

“Every customer is going to be on a different path and understanding where their operations, their infrastructure, their workforce is, is pivotal to be able to address what steps they need to be able to move forward,” he said.

Once you know where they are on their journey, you can understand your customer’s requirements and deliver the solution with an ecosystem of partners.

“No one organization or supplier can deliver the complete solution to the customer, so it’s important there’s a collaboration across the different partners,” John said.

When it comes to delivering IT/OT converged solutions at the industrial edge to enable new applications, John stressed the need to modernize infrastructure and that siloed technologies are no longer viable. He highlighted collaboration and Schneider Electric’s partnership with AVEVA and Stratus to deliver best-in-class solutions and an industrial edge computing reference design framework. The pre-configured reference designs can save up to 40 percent in field engineering costs, move systems to market 20 percent faster, and reduce maintenance costs by 7 percent, he said.

“The customer gets a faster time to value and everybody wins,” he added.

Opportunities in Industrial Edge Deployments

Tim Black discussed how industrial system integrators have a unique perspective when it comes to understanding the data being collected, and the future for them will be understanding what is done with the data.

“Industrial system integrators, they typically have very strong domain knowledge,” Tim said.

Like John, Tim stressed that one vendor doesn’t supply it all, but with Schneider Electric, AVEVA, and Stratus providing key components of the solution, systems integrators will have a solid ecosystem of partners supporting them.

Tim shared a customer success story of La Tortilla Company in Santa Rosa, Cal, a company with a wide range of disparate systems that didn’t work together, but they had to be able to provide accurate performance data. Wonderware California, an AVEVA distributor, used one of its endorsed system integrators, APEX, to finalize a design utilizing AVEVA edge devices that were connected to the disparate automation and control equipment, proving “on-the-edge” real-time visualization, maintenance capabilities, and operational flexibility. AVEVA System Platform consolidated the information from an enterprise point of view, allowing for upload to the company’s business IT systems and reporting on their operational efficiencies.

“The end result was a 5-percent improvement on their throughput, and what that means is 1.5 million tortillas per day!” Tim said.

It’s Not Too Late to Watch the LinkedIn Live Expert Session

In addition to these insights, Sophie, John, and Tim provided much more during the session. For example, Sophie highlighted the importance of innovation and the shared ecosystem. She detailed new industrial edge computing reference designs Schneider Electric has built not only with AVEVA and Stratus, but also with HPE and Lenovo, and the new Schneider Electric Exchange business platform, with a dedicated community of experts focused on industrial edge computing.

If you are interested in Industry 4.0 and the industrial edge, I encourage you to watch the session on-demand, and if you’re not familiar with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, I encourage you to watch that too. Life moves pretty fast. I’d hate for you to miss either one.

And, please download the new Industry 4.0 white paper for further detail and analysis of this topic.

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