Written by Kevin Davenport & Peter Granger, Industry Manager & Sr. Industry Manager, Cisco Systems Inc., a leading supplier of Industrial Intelligence solutions
In the new global business environment, manufacturers are facing some of the toughest design, operational, environmental and strategic challenges in recent memory. Customers – both end consumers and industrial enterprises – are demanding a lot more: more speed, better quality, faster delivery, and more personalised service and products.
Other pressures are coming from the rapid push of information technology into plants, assembly lines, and logistical networks, including the requirement for wider deployment of voice, video and data applications over IP networks. One consequence of this has been more market velocity, as production and time-to-market cycles, aided by IT, continue to shrink; and greater volatility, as competitors wielding new technology emerge from anywhere in today’s “flat world”.
These days, the impetus and ideas for product and process innovation can originate anywhere in the manufacturer’s ecosystem – from customers to suppliers to partners. Manufacturers that exploit this potential have put a premium on “interconnectedness”, on open (but secure) communications, and on new collaboration platforms. Those that aren’t equipped to gather and run with new ideas are likely to be left behind.
Over the last two decades there has been significant technology investment and advancement in the hardware and software systems used in the productlifecycle management (PLM) process. Additionally, advances in plant floor systems (PLC’s, motion control, smart sensors, etc.) have created vast amounts of data that can be used more effectively in the design phase.
But these traditional manufacturing systems do not operate in an environment that promotes the effective sharing of information. Production data from the plant floor is typically still not directly linked to these enterprise applications in real-time, resulting in incomplete and delayed flow of information.
Manufacturers have been reluctant to deploy a truly converged architecture where real-time mission critical video, voice and data is traversed throughout the global enterprise due to security, reliability and scalability concerns within the network.
Industrial Intelligence combines the two networks into a highly integrated real-time decision making engine to meet the business, operational and technology imperatives that address the new market dynamics.
Industrial Intelligence is the enablement of enterprises to more intelligently and responsively manage industrial operations globally. Today, industrial intelligence extends beyond plant floor systems, connecting production environments to the entire value chain of the business, to suppliers, trusted partners and design centers in the broader industrial ecosystem.
In many deployments, industrial intelligence solutions use IP-networking and cloud-based services to “converge” industrial and enterprise networks and allow system-wide communication and collaboration. What these systems offer is a more intelligent platform for innovations that connect devices (to measure, monitor, and manage resources for greater efficiencies), people (in less time and space) and ideas (to generate solutions to industrial, operational, technical and environmental challenges).
Increasingly, industrial intelligence solutions are being accessed through the cloud. Indeed, experts say that the switch to cloud computing is a trend that will only gather momentum in the years ahead. Gartner, for instance, says that in as little as four years, 43 percent of companies will have most of their IT efforts running in the cloud. Already, larger manufacturers are finding that they can control costs and complexity by building private clouds in virtualised data centers that deliver manufacturing applications and services to users at a fraction of the cost.
Industrial Intelligence enables designers to speed the flow of ideas and information to get the right products to the right markets at the right time. Increasingly, success in the marketplace goes to the company that can minimise the distance between a new idea or vision and realisation of its value. By accessing data on the converged IT and plant floor networks in real time, stakeholders throughout the value chain can collaborate with geographically dispersed customers, design teams, and partners, to bring new products to market more effectively and efficiently, while still protecting intellectual property. As customer relationships evolve to business partnerships, both manufacturers and their customers will win through faster innovation, and have the ability to meet the dynamics of the market. Using new digital collaboration platforms, designers can radically reduce the cost and time required to innovate, setting the stage for dramatic improvements in competitive positioning.
Introducing new products can be risky and expensive. Collaborating with customers, suppliers, partners and plant floor business flows can greatly lower the risk and cost, while increasing the pace of innovation. Platforms built around Industrial Intelligence solutions connect stakeholders up and down the entire value chain to enable rapid innovation that beats the competition.
The next piece of the puzzle is to provide a borderless network and next-generation collaboration platform that supports a secure, seamless flow of information and ideas that increases creativity and taps expertise in the design value chain, improving the chances of product success and reducing the time it takes to get new products to market.
The realities of today’s global economy are spurring more manufacturers to invest in industrial intelligence. Fast-evolving global markets are forcing companies to become more agile, able to rapidly re-allocate resources on an international scale. At the same time, strained budgets and competitive pressures are causing companies to get leaner and cost-efficient. It is a challenging environment that demands new strategies and tools to stay competitive and deliver value to customers and citizens.
New IP-based network architectures -- the building blocks of industrial intelligence – offer companies an effective strategy for thriving in the new manufacturing world. Most significantly, it is enabling the convergence between design, operational and management networks, which is creating opportunities to improve efficiency, reliability, security and safety.
Companies that have adopted industrial intelligence solutions found that it can also power new platforms for collaboration, fuelling innovation and speeding time to market. These organizations are gaining a sustainable business advantage and redefining what it takes to win in a globalised, just-in-time world.