Achieving high efficiency, quality, and sustainability of products and services is key to staying relevant in the era of digital transformation. In a move to optimize resources and upscale profitability, manufacturers across the globe have started adopting Industry 4.0 and IoT solutions.
While these solutions play a pivotal role in reducing manufacturing downtime and improving human-machine collaboration, they lack real-time communication between Operational Technology (OT) and Information Technology (IT) across remote locations. The lack of remote communication confines the capabilities of digital transformation to the factory.
Cloud service providers bridge this gap and enable industries to develop full-fledged digital and connected industrial ecosystems. In this blog, we explore how Microsoft Azure empowers the industrial internet of things at minimal cost, time, and effort.
The need for digital transformation in manufacturing:
Over 54% of US manufacturers claim that they lack a unified view of their plant and building information. 40% of manufacturing industry profits are lost due to unplanned downtime in manufacturing units and an average $1B revenue is lost each year by manufacturing companies.
Technology advancement or digital transformation is key to improving ROI and production capabilities in the manufacturing sector.
A typical industrial plant or factory consists of many heterogeneous components, machines, and devices such as legacy devices, PLCs, valves & actuators, conveyor belts, and other machinery. Industries like oil & gas, manufacturing plants consist of huge mechanical parts like drilling machines, pipelines, robotic arms, packaging machine setups, etc.
The two key challenges to digital transformation are:
- Incapacity to monitor devices in real-time due to a lack of visibility.
- Achieving seamless connectivity between OPC UA (Open Platform Communications Unified Architecture) system and the cloud.
The lack of connectivity and visibility spells disaster for manufacturing companies, due to delays in identifying machine failure and increased downtime.
Digital transformation to the rescue: Adopting digitization with Industrial Internet of Things
IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) enables machines and devices to be connected, and allows legacy devices to be monitored using state-of-the-art sensors and transducers in the market. IIoT enhances human-machine collaboration through HMI (Human Machine Interface).
HMIs upscale efficiency dramatically through improved monitoring of manufacturing units and industrial processes. IIoT also enables predictive maintenance, which means that machine failure can be identified ahead of time through sensor data monitoring. Predictive maintenance boosts productivity and reduces maintenance costs associated with application downtime.
The transformative power of cloud computing in IIoT:
Achieving IT-OT convergence is instrumental to scale the capabilities of IIoT beyond the manufacturing unit. Real time communication between OT and IT across remote locations allows organizations to analyze and monitor the performance of devices from any location.
However, developing a full-fledged IT solution in-house presents several challenges to manufacturing units:
- High infrastructure maintenance costs
- Large volumes of data
- Delayed lead times
Cloud computing in IIoT effectively solves all these problems and upscales scalability, visibility, and security of industries. Cloud computing provides all the benefits of an in-house IoT solution at minimal cost and time.
Microsoft Azure is currently the most preferred cloud platform and let’s explore why!
Microsoft Azure – A revolutionary cloud platform that creates future-ready cloud solutions:
Microsoft Azure incorporates a wide array of applications and performance accelerators that allow industries to build, manage and deploy their applications anywhere.
It provides custom languages, frameworks, and infrastructure to solve key business challenges:
- The Azure IoT Solution Accelerator enables industries to connect IoT devices and machines in a flexible and secure way. It also accelerates the development cycle and reduces lead times through a common preconfigured solution.
- Azure Event Hub and Azure Stream Analytics transform data into real-time insights through highly secure enterprise-scale analytics. It also enables organization-wide data sharing through dashboards and visualizations.
- Azure IoT Hub connects millions of devices and enables bi-directional communication between devices and cloud. It sends commands and notifications to IoT devices and tracks message delivery through acknowledgement receipts.
- Device Shadowing provides the last reported state and the desired future state of a device when it is offline. This enables applications and other devices to interact with an offline device. It allows manufacturing industries to pre-program a desired future state using a rules engine or API.
- Azure Cosmo DB is a NoSQL, globally accessible database, which empowers industries with high availability, throughput, and consistency.
Top manufacturing companies are already leveraging Microsoft Azure to connect, monitor, and manage their devices, processes, and systems. These factors are helping manufacturers to achieve improved ROI, simplify operations, and reduce lead times