Why the Manufacturing Sector Needs Edge Computing
Manufacturers need to embrace edge computing in order to keep up with Industry 4.0. As technology continues to advance, manufacturers need fast and efficient solutions.
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Manufacturing is in the middle of a technological revolution. The data-driven fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0, is in full effect, and as manufacturers embrace this change, their needs are shifting. The longer this trend continues, the more it becomes clear that the sector needs edge computing.
The manufacturing industry is already a leader in cloud adoption, but the cracks in the conventional cloud are starting to show. Production facilities need to take things further by embracing the edge, and there are five primary reasons why.
Reliance on Robots Is Rising
Manufacturing’s reliance on automation is one of the biggest factors behind its need for edge computing. Almost 45% of manufacturing companies say robots are integral to their operation. Growing labor shortages will likely increase that figure as more facilities will turn to automation to compensate for lost human productivity.
This rising reliance on robotics necessitates edge computing because higher automation often means lower flexibility. As manufacturers automate more of their processes, they’ll find it harder to adapt to supply chain disruptions, production errors or other unexpected changes. Edge computing provides an answer.
IoT connectivity can enable robots to detect, communicate, and respond to changes to become more flexible. For that to be viable at scale, however, data transmission and processing must be extremely fast and low-latency, which is difficult with traditional data systems. Edge computing, by contrast, offers the responsiveness flexible robotics need.
The IIoT Is Expanding
Similarly, industrial IoT (IIoT) adoption is surging. More than 85% of manufacturing firms have implemented IoT systems, giving the sector the highest adoption rate of any industry. As that trend continues, manufacturers will have massive data volumes to manage.
Edge computing helps by dispersing data processing across multiple devices, enabling faster insights from this data. Information also has to cover less distance in an edge environment, ensuring growing IIoT data volumes don’t result in inefficiencies.
Being able to process IIoT data faster also makes IIoT solutions a more viable option for small manufacturers. These businesses may be unable to justify the costs of such systems in a conventional, less efficient setup, but the edge lets them maximize their returns.
Digital Transformation Is Imperative for Manufacturers
Edge computing’s ability to make other data-centric technologies more accessible is another reason why it’s so crucial to the manufacturing industry. Upscaling robotics and IIoT systems requires edge computing investments, but if manufacturers don’t invest in this technology, they’ll struggle to compete.
As Industry 4.0 grows, manufacturers that don’t embrace digital transformation are falling behind their competitors that do. Digital-centric organizations can offer lower costs, shorter lead times, fewer errors and more supply chain resilience, so digitalization will become the norm. The only way to compete is to likewise join this shift, and edge computing provides a path forward.
Edge computing’s data capacity, speed and latency make it easier to employ robotics, the IIoT and similar technologies to their full potential. Consequently, it’s an important part of joining the digital revolution before manufacturers fall behind.
The Traditional Cloud Is Too Inefficient
It’s important to recognize that edge computing is the best way to act on these needs. Conventional cloud computing can also support IIoT systems and enable flexible automation but not to the extent manufacturers require.
Sending data back and forth between remote data centers is too inefficient for manufacturers. Industry 4.0 technologies like predictive maintenance warnings and collaborative robots require real-time updates and can severely hamper production if there’s any delay. Those risks will only rise with increased digitalization, rendering conventional clouds unsuitable for manufacturing.
Edge servers offer latencies 10 to 100 milliseconds lower than cloud providers. Manufacturers hosting their own edge servers in-house could see even more dramatic improvements. When a fraction of a second could make the difference between a cobot colliding with an employee or navigating safely, that advantage is hard to overlook.
Conventional Data Centers Are Too Vulnerable
Similarly, edge computing provides a security advantage over conventional cloud setups. Large industrial networks must continuously monitor network infrastructure to stay safe, but that can introduce inefficiencies with a traditional system amid such massive data volumes.
Dispersing compute tasks between devices makes automated monitoring more viable. The edge’s low latency also ensures manufacturers can detect and respond to any suspicious activity in real time, which higher-latency cloud setups may be unable to support. Edge computing also offers more security by preventing too much sensitive data from resting or processing in one easily targeted place.
Manufacturing is the most-targeted sector for cybercrime, accounting for 24.8% of all cyberattacks in 2022. In light of that risk, the edge’s security benefits are critical.
Edge Computing Will Transform Manufacturing
Manufacturing’s data needs are skyrocketing. Edge computing is a necessary step forward amid that shift, as more manufacturers will discover as Industry 4.0 progresses.
Manufacturers and their IT partners must recognize that conventional cloud solutions can’t meet this sector’s changing needs. Organizations must embrace the edge to enable safe, efficient and cost-effective digital transformation.
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