Enhancing Digital Transformation with Edge Computing within Industrial Manufacturing Environments

As the needs of industrial organizations grow more complex, edge computing has emerged as a clear solution to moving on from aging systems, without causing disruption to operations.

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The industrial world is well on its way towards digitalization as more organizations seek tools and technologies to help optimize operations. But even as digital transformation takes hold, many industrial organizations find themselves still relying on traditional, often outdated, and custom-built, solutions to run their monitoring and control systems. This harmful dependence on increasingly dated and inflexible software architecture is not something that is easy to break away from for a variety of reasons. Many organizations find themselves utilizing computing infrastructure long surpassed by newer technologies.

The problem for these industrial organizations is that replacing that infrastructure is expensive and requires more support, incurs wasteful downtime for upgrades, which only adds to the costs. As tempting as it is to take an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach, the reality is that relying on aging, unsupported systems is not sustainable for long-term operational and business success.

Edge computing platforms offer a highly effective solution to overcome these challenges, bringing modern functionality like built-in fault tolerance, proactive health monitoring and streamlined maintenance. In addition to being essential for business-critical data and processes in monitor and control, edge computing has become vital to supply chain, manufacturing execution and batch management, asset performance management and access control. With that, let’s look at a few of the benefits that come with adopting edge computing.

Building Reliability at the Edge

In any organization, reliability is critical to every facet of operations—especially in an industrial setting that may span vast, remote locations. Industrial organizations understand the need for modernization, but any upgrades or changes need to happen promptly and deliver quick uptime. Any outages, downtime or disruptions can bring major costs and result in significant loss of product in manufacturing environments. But disruption can mean more than just monetary or product losses. It also invites regulatory and compliance issues, where downtime could result in a loss of critical reporting data or even worse – safety and environmental issues for complex manufacturing environments such as oil and gas operations.

With so much at stake for industrial organizations, any digital transformation project needs to ensure downtime becomes a thing of the past. By incorporating edge computing, such organizations can take advantage of built-in fault tolerance to run their most critical applications, while avoiding any damaging downtime. With modern edge computing platforms, fault tolerance comes out-of-the-box and is easy to integrate into the computing infrastructure and does not require any additional scripting to operate.

Edge computing is also transforming retail supply chains, for example, by integrating inventory and warehouse systems and analyzing customer-facing platforms like in-store POS and e-commerce sites, improving insights into purchasing trends and loss prevention. This optimization enhances critical KPIs such as OTIF delivery and inventory velocity, elevating the overall customer experience and business performance.

Bringing IT and OT into Alignment

The roles and responsibilities of IT and OT have evolved in lock step with the changes seen across industrial industries. Over the last few years, there has been an uptick in frequency for how often the two teams work together, or alongside systems integrators (SIs). But even as the two converge, challenges relating to IT staff shortages and limitations have left OT teams under immense pressure serving dual role maintaining the existing infrastructure, while also covering IT tasks.

Edge computing can help make the convergence between IT and OT seamless. By upgrading their infrastructure, organizations can get the best of both worlds when it comes to meeting the needs of IT and OT functions, tying together their common objectives of application availability and security. This convergence is made possible because edge computing tools empower OT teams to leverage the software they depend on, while also giving the IT side the familiarity they need to operate more effectively.

Shrinking the Operational Footprint While Increasing the Brawn

The software and tools that industrial organizations depend on need to be able to handle and manage high volumes of data in real-time. But doing so at such a large scale, across remote and distant locations, can mean an ever-growing number of applications and hardware. And as the number of servers and applications proliferate, OT teams face a real challenge when trying to keep up. Now, as organizations prioritize upgrades to infrastructure among other modernization initiatives, the need to reduce the overall operational footprint has become a must for long-term sustainability.

Edge computing solutions provide OT teams with a solution capable of running application virtualization that can take multiple servers, fold them into one platform and run several software applications all at the same time. Utilizing edge computing to consolidate the amount of technology involved helps relieve some of the strain facing OT teams by cutting through complexity, simplifying management and shrinking the overall footprint of an organization. It also makes supporting remote sites easier, and faster, as edge computing platforms allow users to monitor those locations from a centralized control center.

Next Generation Digital Transformation Depends on the Edge

Moving away from the tools, software, and infrastructure that have traditionally been what run critical operations like monitoring, is not straightforward—but it is vital to moving any digital transformation journey forward. As the needs of industrial organizations grow more complex, edge computing has emerged as a clear solution to moving on from aging systems, without causing disruption to operations. With edge computing technologies in place, organizations can bolster critical enablement for IT and OT teams, reduce operational footprint and costs and infuse reliability and dependability to often highly regulated operating environments.