Industry 4.0: You've Already Missed Your Integration

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Industry 4.0: You've Already Missed Your Integration

We hear a lot about industry 4.0, but not often about industrial systems. What is it really and what need is raised?

· Integration Zone ·
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Factory, Car, Engine, Assembling, Production

The industrial systems found in factories often have nothing to do with the systems that are known in IT. No REST API, no database (or few), and obviously no default message bus. However, it is necessary to be able to connect this small world together in order to collect data that will be used for analysis on Big Data or to do machine learning. However, this dream of solutions such as Microsoft Azure's IoT suites and AWS GreenGrass to connect your plant is totally unrealistic if you don't simply connect to industrial systems to recover data.

What are these industrial systems?

Forget about REST API, JDBC, BAPI, File, and all the other known means of exchange in a classic IT. Our new friends are called:

  • Modbus: Communication protocol used for PLC networks

  • Scada: Data acquisition and control system to recover a large number of telemetry measurements

  • OPC: A set of protocols for industrial, standardized, and open communications, containing several substandard (OPC AE, DE, UA, and others). OPC UA is the advanced standard in the industry 4.0

We can see that we are dealing with non-IT protocols that we must be able to exchange with the rest of traditional IT.

But could we do it differently?

So yes, especially if you let yourself be seduced by the superb startup that will see the operational staff (dodging the IT teams in the process), who will sell you the dream solution. Except that very often, the startup will send data that has a potential impact on security and ideally requires rapid data feedback. Outside the sending of data may be done directly outside the industrial system, with a Sigfox/Lora/4G connection, totally uncorrelated to the rest of the existing IS.

Clearly, this is not ideal, and it is necessary to be able to correlate all IS data with each other. Security, AI, Big Data, BI: all these needs may be frustrated by these "turnkey" solutions that promise you great things. In other words, many solutions are pure application silos, and it would be fashionable to avoid them.

So how do we do it?

The first thing to say is that an Industry 4.0 program or project requires a very early view of the issue of integration. It is also ideal to include a safety manager in the integration study. If you set up an alerting system and hack into it, you potentially risk blowing up your factory, for example. Then, think about the roadmap to make the day before to have an idea of where you will go. Then, define a standard architecture, and solutions exist to make the two worlds of IT and EO coexist.

Immediately forget about typical integration vendors such as MuleSoft, Tibco, Software AG, and others. You will have to search among the specialized EO editors. Perhaps you already have some in your factories. Otherwise, I would strongly recommend the list of exhibitors at trade fairs, whether it is around the IoT, industrial systems, or fairs in your professional field. The idea around this is that your industrial integration component will allow you to connect with your industrial systems in Adhoc protocols and will allow you to access this famous data via much more IT protocols, such as MQTT or even more simply via REST API!

To conclude

Finally, I really stress the need to carry out these studies very early on because, indirectly, we are talking about the performance of your plant. If you are able to predict in real-time, to upload data in real-time, you will have a real competitive advantage. I would also like to note that since I am currently working on an RFP on this subject for a client, you will understand that I am refraining from publicly advising you on a solution to date.

OPC, industrial systems, industry 4.0, integration, modbus, scada

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