It’s estimated that a modern plant with 2,000 pieces of equipment can generate 2,200 terabytes of data a month. Processing such a high volume of data at a data center is not only costly, but time consuming. A far superior method of processing all that information is to do so at the edge, and edge computing has become the practice of smart factories everywhere.
Get the Most Out of IIoT Sensors
IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) sensors continuously track conditions such as vibration, humidity, heat, and location. Operations that heavily rely on these conditions in their process and have regulatory requirements, such as food and beverage manufacturing, can ensure products are made consistently and safely. In addition to environmental sensors, product location can be tracked in real-time, so forklifts and other forms of transport can function as efficiently as possible. Using these sensors in tandem with edge computing will enable manufacturers to make quick decisions in real-time.
In my manufacturing days, one of the biggest challenges at each plant was keeping the machines up and running to meet production goals. Traditional preventative maintenance and newer predictive maintenance methods could help in this endeavor, but typically these efforts led to educated guesses. Factories equipped with IIoT sensors can monitor the condition of machines in real-time, and with edge computing this data can be processed to determine if and when the equipment is likely to fail. This results in better uptime, longer asset life, and optimized operating costs.
Take Full Advantage of AI with Edge Devices
With the widespread adoption of AI in real-world applications, processing data at the edge will become more necessary. One popular use case is the training of cameras to detect issues in quality and safety automatically. The data that the AI is looking at can be hours upon hours of camera footage from multiple devices and sending that amount of information to the data center would severely impact the costs and speed of the operation. By reviewing the data at the edge, manufacturers can efficiently take advantage of this new technology to ensure their factories run as smoothly as possible. This is all possible thanks to advances in computing, GPUs, and devices specially made to run in industrial environments.
A New Gateway: Edge Devices
In some cases, devices can’t connect to the IoT hub on their own, or it’s undesirable for security or architecture reasons. IoT edge devices are capable of connecting the IOT hub and other devices on the network, acting as a gateway. The edge device can then process incoming data and send only what’s needed further up the network, resulting in decreased bandwidth usage. Using an edge device this way also allows for traffic smoothing and isolation of downstream devices and can even store data in the event of an Internet outage, so it can send it forward when reconnected. This is a great way to reduce line stoppage due to a WAN failure.
Many of these newer edge devices also support 4G and 5G, allowing them to bypass the corporate network and connect directly to a cellular network. This creates a backup option in case of traditional network failure allowing devices to continue to communicate with cloud services and regional data centers. The result is a factory that is continuously connected and can run with total normalcy in a difficult situation.
Help Is Available for All Edge Computing Devices
As the factory of the future becomes the factory of the present, edge computing has proven to be a necessity for modern manufacturing. Picking the right devices for your unique operation can be challenging, but there’s no need to do so alone. Our Manufacturing Practice has reviewed countless use cases and can help you find the devices that are the best fit for your business. Engage our team today to get started.