The machine and equipment builder (OEM) market is highly competitive, with expectations of ongoing price / performance improvements in each generation. Customers are recognising the need for machines that are connected, flexible, scalable, and smart, to support the ongoing Industry 4.0 revolution that is combining physical operations with digital technology and big data to create a more holistic ecosystem.
By Aric Prost, Sr. Director, OEM, Stratus Technologies
There is a constant tension between incorporating these technology improvements while also keeping costs in line across design, engineering, and product management.
Embracing digital transformation enables machine and equipment builders to enhance design and supports the development of new services around equipment performance and maintenance. When implemented, Edge Computing can facilitate a smooth evolution from the equipment of today to digitally enabled machines that end customers are requiring to be able to integrate into their connected operations.
This includes multiple capabilities such as on-premise or cloud connectivity to fully integrated smart machines that embrace digital transformation without the need for complex retrofitting and redesign in the future.
Edge Computing is a scalable modular technology that supports the development of standardised, compatible software components and applications to increase efficiency. It can help enable equipment manufacturers’ existing applications - such as monitoring and control software - to be consolidated onto a single platform while enabling other critical applications, like Historian, MES, and OEE/Performance Monitoring to run on the same platform. This makes it easier to develop Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)-enabled smart machines and equipment, and to easily add future applications that support customers’ evolving Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing demands.
The OEM market is entering a period that will bring as much change as the introduction of the PLC. Edge Computing is a critical technology that will enable this transition without adding insurmountable engineering challenges. Edge Computing platforms will play an integral role in expanding the traditional control and automation capabilities of equipment. They will also provide the bridge for equipment manufacturers to embrace digital transformation initiatives for themselves and to integrate with initiatives of their customers.
There are three key tenets that govern effective Edge Computing platforms. You should keep these considerations in mind when selecting the right platform:
In the same way that machine automation, using PLCs and PACs, revolutionised equipment design more than 40 years ago, Smart Factories and Smart Manufacturing are evolving the industrial world again. Applying digital transformation concepts enables companies to operate at peak performance by leveraging the data collected by control systems and sensors, enabling OEMs to enhance design, and supporting the development of new services around equipment performance and maintenance.