How Cloud Computing Is Taking Industrial Manufacturing by Storm - OZY | A Modern Media Company


Because data is the competitive advantage that manufacturers will have in the future

By Neil Parmar

The author is director of product marketing for brilliant manufacturing software at GE digital.

OZY and Predix from GE — the cloud-based development platform built for industry — have partnered to bring you an inside look at the future of digital industries, where people, data and productivity meet. 

Industrial manufacturing operations are notorious for being slow and cautious adopters of new technology. This is rightfully so, as many of the industrial processes in this world are critical to the support of our society and in some cases, hazardous to the public if they’re not well contained and managed. No wonder, then, that the new cloud paradigm of computing is often approached with great caution by industrial operations.

But consider some of the advantages of cloud-based computing, which include three factors in particular as far as big data is concerned: velocity, volume and variety. Think about all of the information produced by an industrial manufacturing plant today, and all of the data being gleaned from sensors, switches, valves, spreadsheets and even people. Then think about how quickly this all happens. In many cases these measurements are taken at sub-second intervals. And think about the different types of available data, whether analog or digital, text or video, or location coordinates or transactions. Indeed, industrial operations have just about every type of data used today in computing at their digital fingertips. 

Sure, nobody wants to have serial number 1 of a new product — but after something catches on and is proving to be financially beneficial, it’s hard to keep it out of an industrial operation.

Given the competitive nature of manufacturing, if a company is not continually striving to become more productive and sustainable, they’re effectively falling behind — which means eventually they’re likely to go out of business. Case in point: the landscape about 10 years ago, during the advent of mobile technologies and wireless communications in industrial plants. Many manufacturing companies were fearful of adopting new technology then, fearful of everything from the intrinsic safety of devices to the security of people using them. I remember attending a committee meeting for manufacturers and overhearing comments about how they had no intention of allowing the new mobile products provided by industrial vendors into their plants.

Fast-forward to today and their plants couldn’t operate at current productivity levels without mobile solutions on the shop floor and in the supply chain. Sure, nobody wants to have serial number 1 of a new product — but after something catches on and is proving to be financially beneficial, it’s hard to keep it out of an industrial operation.

The same is true of industrial cloud computing, though certain questions loom over adoption: Where is the best place to store all that industrial information and boost supply chain execution and then provide what people need? There are also all the particulars around tracking efficiency and work in process, plus scaling production across a plant. The solution needs to be easily adopted by others — and it’s not just about individual plants anymore. The entire supply chain needs coordination, creating a so-called digital thread across people, machines and processes. An infinitely scalable, easily shared, reliable, secure and globally available cloud is the answer. 

So the question we should be asking isn’t whether the industrial cloud is for manufacturing companies but rather what applications should we seed into the industrial cloud to gain a competitive edge.

Predix from GE is enabling the adoption of powerful, secure, and scalable solutions built for the industrial app economy. It’s industrial-strength strength, powering the future of industry. Get Connected.

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