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Chapter 5

4. Availability of theprimary process

Aided by Cloud Computing

If there’s one thing manufacturers have learned from COVID-19, it’s that scaling production down drastically during lockdown, and scaling up when the world started to get to its natural pace again, was everything but easy. Flexibility of operations has of course always been a priority, but these operations and processes are not used to scaling as rigid as the past two years. Cloud is one of the solutions that can at least take care of the scalability of IT operations & processes. But how?

Problem definition

Most manufacturers are still using “homegrown IT solutions”, which were once bought as out-of-the-box solutions and have been used as intended. Over time these systems have grown into the organizations, and are fully intertwined with all parts of the operation. They also come from an era where the cloud’s promise of scalability was not there yet. In short, this “homegrown IT” is limiting scalability in the manufacturing industry. Time to look at cloud infrastructure.

Cloud Computing

If uptime requirements are based on ‘5 nines uptime’ or higher, this will probably mean setting up a hybrid IT platform that can lead to controlled development of new code. This can be interpreted by the machines that aid in manufacturing and also to a less complex IT infrastructure that will ensure high availability.

Machines and robots usually grab the information they need to function from the network. A complex network is detrimental to uptime since supporting it will be tedious. However coding directly on a machine without quality assurance can be just as or even more detrimental to your primary process.

To ensure the highest levels of availability we need to mix controlled development of objects with a very simple, yet resilient IT infrastructure to ensure only quality assured objects enter the bubble of the primary process. A part of this infrastructure will, based on requirements, probably be located locally at the production facility, while the development of new objects can be done in the cloud.

The reverse flow of collecting and storing data with the goal of improving operations is probably equally important and could, based on the amount of data, also be partially local on the facility, while analysis of this data is done in the Cloud. Certainly with the advent of Industrial IoT, data is being generated at staggering speeds and high volume. This can put extreme stress on the infrastructure that could indirectly lead to loss of uptime in the primary process. Certainly a complex infrastructure could lead to extended downtime.

The creation of objects for the control of machines and robots should then be located in a controlled environment where objects can only go live after thorough quality control to ensure sustained operation. For secondary or supporting processes, Cloud computing offers a platform for users to store and process vast amounts of data in a predefined environment, meaning that requirements for in-house developed IT infrastructures will lessen.