Author: Beth Parkinson, Market Development Director for The Connected Enterprise, Rockwell Automation
There are hundreds of millions of different products for sale every day. Each unique SKU (stock keeping unit) represents an opportunity for manufacturing success — or failure.
Do you have visibility into the processes — innovation, procurement, production, delivery, customer service — that separate winners from losers? With a Connected Enterprise, you would.
Manufacturing executives increasingly can drown in a torrent of data flowing from their processes. A true Connected Enterprise leverages connected technologies to enable an enterprise to securely and efficiently share information and insights.
Rather than bits and bytes of random data, a Connected Enterprise delivers working data capital — and allows executives to confidently expand operations, innovate new products and processes and grow their businesses.
Yet even manufacturers with highly automated production can encounter information roadblocks. Why? Because new data from updated equipment meets antiquated or home-grown business systems — those that lack standardization, open protocols, and security features.
These older, hardware-centric systems can't leverage new tools that provide information technology (IT) flexibility and the capability to rapidly crunch data and deliver process and product improvements.
That's the bad news.
The good news is that internet-based technologies that enable The Connected Enterprise are far more approachable than yesterday's on premise options. They're also far more scalable and adaptable than legacy systems, so manufacturers enjoy a longer usage horizon, lower total cost of ownership, and greater return on investment. The following key technologies enable manufacturers to leverage The Connected Enterprise:
- Cloud computing provides on-demand computer applications, processing power, and storage while avoiding infrastructure costs associated with on premise systems. Manufacturers have an array of options for migrating old systems to the cloud, and can gradually increase security while upgrading applications as necessary.
- Virtualization allows a manufacturer to construct a virtual hardware platform in software, allowing deployment of numerous virtual computers with different types and classes of operating systems. Virtualization creates “hardware independence” and extends the life of existing equipment.
- Data analytics turns a Connected Enterprise into a smarter enterprise. It integrates all data, including data pulled from embedded intelligence in plants and from suppliers, into a single management and decision-support system. Modern data analytics presents content to users (customers, suppliers, leadership, frontline staff, etc.) when they need it and in the format they require (spreadsheets, dashboards, trending tools, web browsers, etc.).
With these tools and others, a manufacturer can rapidly update automation technologies to current industry standards for interoperability and commonality (e.g. ISO, IEEE, IEC, OPC Foundation, ISA). A newly robust network infrastructure improves the process of software installations, patches, and upgrades for years to come.
Enabling technologies provide necessary capabilities for today's challenges and the agility to adapt to tomorrow's unknown competitive marketplace. Isn't it time that you enabled your Connected Enterprise?