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AVEVA World Conference UK - Industry 4.0 and digital transformation

Posted by Andrew Graham on May 17, 2019, 3:51:31 PM

This week, myself and our System Architect Deon van Aardt presented at the AVEVA World Conference in London, discussing all about Industry 4.0 and digital transformation.

We started out the session sharing what we mean by Industry 4.0 and went on to explore how, by utilising Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) enabled devices, digital technology can be leveraged as an enabler for digital transformation of industrial environments.

The fourth industrial revolution is filling today’s shop floor with economically available smart devices that provide plant-level engineers with critical metrics directly from assets. Imagine a device that sends data from pumps in a process manufacturing plant to display metrics with warnings when (or even before) parameters exceed critical limits.

Early adopters have already been leveraging today’s abundance of instantly-available data, networking capabilities, and processing power to streamline operations using smart connected devices. LNS Research recommends that manufacturing companies educate themselves on how Industry 4.0 technologies can be a significant game-changer for their control systems.


Leveraging the untapped Plant-Level Data

The traditional enterprise architecture that organisations rely on was designed for two main purposes—control production and manage assets. There has always been a firm line between enterprise data and operational data. Companies have used the former strictly for corporate planning, while relying on the latter to control daily production. Ultimately, there has always been a lot of untapped data that manufacturers either aren’t collecting, or they’re not using for any purpose.

Recent innovations around Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platforms provide ways to collect, store, and analyse all the untapped data. Research on this topic suggests that Big Data and analytics will give rise to a separate analytics-centric architecture that exists parallel to existing frameworks. The combined parallel architectures provide plant engineers with a more flexible yet more robust Operational Architecture to run analytics at any level throughout the organisation.

Manufacturers are learning quickly that collecting and sharing this untapped shop floor data outside the plant allows much broader and sophisticated analytics. IIoT applications can leverage both enterprise and plant data across a holistic platform to perform predictive, and in some cases, prescriptive analytics to address failures, suggest practical changes, and convey outcomes related to recommended changes.


Edge, On-premise or Cloud: Why not combine?

There has been a lot of research reports written on edge devices and advantages of performing real-time analytics all the way down on the assets. But that doesn’t mean edge devices are going to replace cloud or on-premise computing. In many cases it makes more sense to send data to a centralised repository on a data center or in the Cloud.

For instance, it's painfully expensive and of little benefit for an edge device to perform complex analytics. They can perform simple computations with current hardware and systems quickly—to provide local results instantly when needed. However, more sophisticated calculations have to be sent to a Cloud repository or a data center with almost unlimited computation power. Using a combination of Edge and Cloud computing enables more complex calculations and allows long-term storage of control data that used to be purged (or archived, never to be seen again) before today’s industrial revolution.


Bottom line

Today’s advanced IIoT technologies promise disruption throughout manufacturing; they enable better data collection and sophisticated analytics. Structured hierarchies will give way to a secure, decentralised architecture that leverages the abundance of data. That doesn't mean companies need to replace the entire control system. Key takeaways for manufacturers regarding industrial transformation of their control systems:

  • Industrial Transformation of control systems doesn’t mean edge devices will take over your PLCs or SCADA. Edge is great for simple real-time analytics, but can’t handle unstructured data.
  • Don’t expect or plan to “rip and replace” legacy systems. Every plant has “monument” systems that, if replaced, would cause more harm than good.
  • The best approach to an Industrial Transformation pilot or program is to add complementary software and applications to existing control systems.

To talk to us about how we can support your Industrial Transformation get in touch with us today.