What are the top challenges today’s discrete manufacturers face today?

Today, discrete manufacturers face many challenges including, but not limited to, maintaining aging infrastructure, managing complex production processes, and enabling and training a changing workforce – all while working to ensure quality and operational efficiency metrics are achieved safely. These challenges are coupled with the need to stay competitive globally. This is pushing manufacturers to automate processes and leverage the vast amounts of data being generated by operations, which means implementing effective, compliant, and secure automation and control systems that can be standardized and scaled across their operations. Then, as new systems and technologies are introduced, employees need to be trained. Competing successfully can be a game of inches, meaning that discrete manufacturers should make incremental improvements to production to drive shorter production turns, improve quality, and maintain safety.

How is Edge Computing helping discrete manufacturers remain competitive? What opportunities does the technology help uncover?

First and foremost, Edge Computing reduces the risk and complexity of OT architectures behind what are already complex production processes by providing a backbone for operations – a secure, low latency, high availability backbone. This ensures that critical applications and data are always available and accessible, minimizing unplanned downtime and simplifying the deployment and management of future solutions. As a result, manufacturers can be more confident in adopting modern applications and processes and scaling them across operations. For example, Edge Computing combined with virtualization native to the platform makes it easier to implement and manage solutions remotely, and allows workloads to be consolidated on a single platform. Edge Computing also delivers high availability and fault tolerance helps manufacturers reliably scale capabilities while reducing the amount of infrastructure needed.

And, lastly, purpose-built Edge Computing accomplishes this with minimal impact on IT and OT. They bring IT-level standards for cyber, comms, and networking into these environments and offer a level of automated operation that lets OT and IT focus on more critical, value add tasks.

Security concerns continue to be top-of-mind for discrete manufacturers—what is Edge Computing’s role in remaining secure and compliant?

With security concerns top of mind for discrete manufacturing leaders, it is critical that security practices extend to the Edge. IT and OT teams are leaning on Edge Computing to secure remote operations without compromising IT standards for secure connectivity and data protection. Edge Computing offers built-in redundancy, data protection, and application recovery while virtualization allows cybersecurity software to run locally. So, while Edge devices may increase the surface area that needs to be safeguarded, Edge Computing provides an added layer of protection. Data can be securely managed close to where the data is collected and used, and IT can apply a “zero trust security posture” via Edge Computing that allows access to each device or node to only necessary individuals, making it easier to control security. Edge Computing improves security by enabling critical applications to protect and manage data more easily and securely.

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How does Edge Computing empower OT and IT teams to work more efficiently?

OT and IT teams have served distinct purposes with different requirements. With smart manufacturing and digital transformation initiatives taking priority, these teams are being asked to work closely together. Successfully digitalizing discrete manufacturing environments involves bridging the gap between OT and IT systems and tools. Edge Computing gives manufacturers a standardized IT tool to solve OT problems in the Edge environments.

IT has the enterprise data and analytics tools to deliver scalable secure solutions. OT has the local data and operational knowledge to implement those solutions. To bring these two together, discrete manufacturers need a common platform for both. Edge Computing plays a natural and valued role. Purpose-built Edge Computing is OT-friendly and hardened for Edge environments but based on open IT standards. Edge Computing brings IT standards for cyber, comms, and networking into these environments.

Additionally, Edge Computing provides a way for IT to push and patch apps at the Edge and manage them remotely and securely. This creates a path for IT to deliver improvements and enhance security with their existing team over time.

For OT, purpose-built Edge Computing offers an easy-to-manage and use, scalable and secure compute infrastructure for local operations that doesn’t require added IT skills on-site.

For both teams, Edge Computing ensures applications are running and easy to manage, and allows data to be easily aggregated, organized, and shared across systems and up to the cloud while minimizing latency, security, and cost issues that often impact their ability to deploy solutions.

Ultimately, Edge Computing provides a more efficient infrastructure for data aggregation, organization, and processing, enabling seamless collaboration between IT and OT to meet the demands of modern data-driven operations. Empowering IT and OT teams to bring processing closer to the data source, Edge Computing decreases latency and delays, which is critical to OT applications. At the same time, Edge Computing also ensures the right data is shared with the enterprise, which is essential to maintaining data integrity and visibility for IT. Even when the network connection is lost, Edge Computing platforms enable continuous operations and protect operations from data loss, which can have operational and compliance implications. Working together via Edge Computing, IT and OT teams can not only improve performance but they can lower the total cost of ownership of their compute infrastructure and data management and transmissions.

What should discrete manufacturers look for in an Edge Computing platform?

Whether the need is to improve monitoring and control, or to increase performance through data, of a machine, a production line, an entire factory, or enterprise operations, resilient and highly reliable Edge Computing infrastructure is essential for discrete manufacturing organizations to achieve peak performance and stay competitive. Discrete manufacturing leaders should look for an Edge Computing platform that is simple to deploy and maintain, protected from threats, and can run autonomously so as to not put additional demands on the IT or OT team.

A platform that's effortless, resilient, and always available thanks to easy serviceability is essential for discrete manufacturers to maximize up-time. A zero-touch design, robust build, and remote management capability empowers manufacturers to significantly minimize operational, financial, and even reputational risks. Edge Computing bridges the OT and IT gap, so companies can experience the full benefits of digital transformation and smart manufacturing initiatives. To meet the needs of both the production floor and the data center, discrete manufacturers need to choose a solution that will ensure continuous availability of production-critical applications.