Edge computing technology is on everyone’s lips. Rightly so because it closes the gap between the world of automation and the cloud. It offers manufacturing companies the opportunity to meet the constantly increasing demands on flexibility and individualization in production. Concrete use cases show where the interaction between automation, industrial edge, and the cloud can show its strengths and the most significant potential.
Anyone who wants to benefit from the ever-increasing digitization needs to be aware of one thing: as great as its advantages in industrial production are, at least as remarkable, are the challenges in dealing with the resulting amounts of data. More and more companies are now realizing the importance and necessity of processing and analyzing their production data on a larger scale to exploit optimization potential in their production. Edge-based solution approaches are crucial because they allow production-related data to be collected and processed – directly on the machine.
Device Management Is Easier Than Ever
With all the challenges that can be overcome with edge solutions, there is excellent potential in device management. The number of automation devices located in a production facility and that communicate with one another will continue to increase. So far, there has been no ready-to-use and user-friendly solution for managing many automation systems, operating and signaling units, drive controls, network devices, and many more. With the help of Siemens Industrial Edge, machine and system operators can now fill all their systems with updates for new functions and firmware updates from a central point with the Industrial Edge Management System.
So-called edge-enabled devices have another significant advantage. This is understood to be a conventional automation device that also has the edge functionalities already mentioned. In this way, only a single physical machine has to be installed, connected, and put into operation in a system, which would have been needed anyway. This is particularly advantageous when there is only a little space for additional devices in a system, or the administration and cabling effort is to be kept low. But even for existing machines and systems, there is already the option of retrofitting an industrial PC to obtain the edge functionality.
In the past, production lines and their infrastructure were designed to run for several years to decades. During this time, there were only minimal changes to the products to be manufactured. With the increasing demand for flexibility and customer-specific solutions, the focus has shifted: Today, the most important thing is to expand a system with new functions as quickly as possible to do justice to the constantly changing product range. Edge-enabled devices have a different operating system, the so-called Industrial Edge Runtime, which enables the modernization of designs by adding new functions in the form of so-called Industrial Edge Apps.
Industrial Edge In Action – An Application Example
Fine paper dust on the cardboard blanks poses a significant challenge for the handling process. It leads to uncontrolled clogging of the vacuum injector, which is responsible for generating the vacuum for sucking in the cardboard blanks. As a result, the cardboard boxes fall off the suction cup during the travel to the folding device, and the entire packaging process comes to a standstill. To prevent this, Schmalz programmed its app for Siemens Industrial Edge, which collects process data from the vacuum grippers at high frequency and calculates key wear indicators. These, in turn, allow conclusions to be drawn about upcoming service and maintenance work by indicating when a vacuum filter needs to be cleaned or a suction cup needs to be replaced.
In the future, all other component suppliers of the packaging machine will be able to access the Industrial Edge Platform in the machine and install their apps on it. The trick is: All applications run on the same Edge device.
But that was just the beginning: The knowledge gained is ultimately of little use if you cannot reach the right people, namely the service staff, who can repair the system in the event of failures. By connecting Siemens Industrial Edge to MindSphere, maintenance work and the ordering of spare parts can be arranged on demand worldwide. Machine builders and machine operators can work together even more efficiently. The efficient interaction between edge and cloud opens up opportunities to finally implement new solutions and business models that have long existed in people’s minds.
Edge Or Cloud?
As the previous example shows, edge and cloud do not compete with one another; they complement one another. High-frequency data can be recorded, managed, and preprocessed close to the machine using edge devices and then made available globally through the cloud. Due to the enormous computing power available on-demand in the cloud, high-performance machine learning tasks can be implemented in the future. Thanks to the seamless combination of the automation world with the IT world, high-level language applications can run even closer to the actual production process in the future. In the application example with the vacuum grippers, the Schmalz developers put their energy into programming the app.
The Use Of Industrial Edge In The Future
The use of Industrial Edge and MindSphere makes it possible to master the significant challenges that the ever-increasing trend towards customized solutions and production flexibility brings with it. The number of devices, sensors, cameras, or control elements will continue to increase, making comprehensive data management necessary. But data processing must not be ignored here either: What to do if there is no ready-made app for your application? To meet the conditions and requirements here, too, Siemens has integrated the Mendix low-code platform. This even allows users without programming knowledge to create their applications and incorporate them on Siemens Industrial Edge and MindSphere.
For the example of predictive maintenance at the Amberg electronics plant, a clear maintenance dashboard for all systems could in the future be the solution for displaying the immediate need for action for machines – from simple milling machines to complex assembly lines. In addition, new business models with a “pay per use” model could be developed for the entire industry in the future, which, however, requires a comprehensive implementation of integrated and connected edge cloud solutions. In concrete terms, this means: First of all, the basis for seamless connectivity in the factory must be created before profits can be made with data.
Main Advantages Of Cloud And Edge Solutions
The automotive industry is an excellent example of an industry that can benefit significantly from edge and cloud technologies. Your long assembly processes and supply chains can be better interlinked and controlled more efficiently by linking machine statuses, the order backlog, and the delivery status of components.
- Faster adaptation of system functions using apps
- Greater flexibility and openness for automation
- Machine-level preprocessing of high-frequency data
- Building machine learning and AI applications
- shorter innovation cycles for machines and systems
- central device management
- global access to system data and machine statuses.