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Blogs by Trenton Systems

Why Edge Computing Is Important for Industry 4.0 Success

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Photo: Edge computing is and will continue to be an integral part of industry 4.0, otherwise known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Learn more about it and its place in the fast-advancing world of manufacturing in this blog post.

We’ve talked about tactical edge servers and how they’re improving the effectiveness of UAV operations, but on a scale much larger than the military alone, edge computing is poised to bring forth massive change in the global economy by altering, upgrading, and replacing the manufacturing and production technologies implemented during the previous industrial revolution.

There’s a trendy name for this phenomenon – industry 4.0 – coined by the German government in 2011 to describe its initiatives in manufacturing digitalization. It aims to “drive digital manufacturing forward by increasing digitization and the interconnection of products, value chains, and business models. It also aims to support research, the networking of industry partners, and standardization.”

But industry 4.0 is not just a trend; it’s an entire revolution in manufacturing and production that’s here to stay.

According to B2B research company MarketsandMarkets, the global industrial internet of things (IIoT) platform market size is expected to reach $13.82 billion by 2023.

Now do I have your attention?

In this blog post, we’ll discuss industry 4.0, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution, edge computing, and how the two are related, or in our opinion, inseparable. Toward the end, we’ll provide use cases to demonstrate the relationship between the two and discuss some things to keep in mind as you explore rugged computing solutions for your edge-driven industry 4.0 deployments.

The concept of industry 4.0 is explained in a helpful graphic that outlines the nine pillars of industry 4.0, including cloud computing, augmented reality, and additive manufacturing

Graphic: Industry 4.0 has its roots in the computerization of manufacturing and production processes. It is sometimes referred to as "smart manufacturing," and you have heard of the term "smart factory," in which technological processes are highly integrated to achieve productivity goals faster and more efficiently.

What is industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 is both a concept and a revolution.

Conceptually, industry 4.0 broadly refers to a variety of ongoing technological advancements and practices being implemented by businesses and organizations globally to improve the speed and efficiency of their manufacturing and production processes.

These advancements and practices include the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), big data analysis, 5G cellular technology, 3D printing, edge computing and smart sensors, among other advanced technologies, to boost production rate, cut manufacturing costs, streamline communication and responsiveness between automated machines, achieve manufacturing and productivity objectives faster by increasing the speed, efficiency, precision, and accuracy of assembly line processes and related data, and more.

A graphic explaining the four industrial revolutions and how cyber-physical systems will be an integral part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or industry 4.0

Graphic: Cyber-physical systems, or systems that integrate the power of computation with physical objects and processes, such as those seen in sensor networks and automated machines, are expected to dominate the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

Industry 4.0 may also refer to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is the phase of industrial advancement in which humanity currently finds itself. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a direct result of the advancements and practices mentioned earlier, with a strong emphasis on less human intervention in manufacturing and production, not for the purpose of eliminating human involvement entirely, but rather to develop a highly adept, technologically assisted workforce.

A total of nine pillars, or technological drivers, have been broadly defined as contributors to industry 4.0, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution. They are:

  1. Big data, to better inform and empower companies’ organizational decision-making
  2. Autonomous robots, to quickly and efficiently solve complex tasks that humans cannot solve with ease
  3. Simulation and mathematical modeling, to optimize the manufacturing and production processes and achieve effective shop-floor management
  4. Horizontal and vertical system integration, to ensure connectivity amongst in-house machines and between supply chain partners
  5. Industrial internet of things (IIoT), to gather, process, and store data from physical objects within manufacturing and production environments, and to use it to improve operations
  6. The cloud, to assist with supply chain integration, facilitate its management and administration, and virtualize resources to streamline traditional client-server infrastructure
  7. Additive manufacturing, to reduce lead times and allow for quicker and better design and prototype production
  8. Augmented reality (AR), to enhance human-machine interaction, maintenance tasks, and equipment inspections
  9. Cybersecurity, to safeguard the data circulating in manufacturing and production environments

A graphic explaining edge computing's place in the middle, or at the edge, of the conventional cloud computing and internet of things (IoT) architecture

Graphic: Edge computing has its place in the middle, or at the edge, of cloud computing and the internet of things (IoT). It is essential to ensure the success of industry 4.0 going forward.

What is edge computing?

Edge computing is a distributed networking architecture focused on moving the computational power of the cloud nearer to data-generating sources to reduce latency and cut data transfer costs.

Edge computing achieves its low latency by reducing the physical distance that data must travel for processing and analysis. In a conventional cloud computing architecture, servers in a remote, centralized cloud data center process incoming data and return insights gleaned from this data to the end user. But because of their remoteness, the data traveling to them travels farther than in an edge computing architecture, an additional distance that results in greater network latency, or a delay in data transfer, which is a major problem for applications requiring real-time responses and data-driven insights.

A graphic showcasing the complexity of the relationship between edge computing and industry 4.0

Graphic: Edge computing complements the smart manufacturing processes of the future, ensuring that employees and management teams have quick access to the insights they need to bolster productivity.

Why is edge computing important for industry 4.0 success?

Edge computing and industry 4.0 cross paths in what's known as "industrial edge computing." Industrial edge computing describes the incorporation of edge computing technologies, such as edge servers, into modernized, data-driven manufacturing and production environments, like those indicative of industry 4.0.

The relationship between edge computing and industry 4.0 is already being realized in the form of on-site data centers, which go by a few different names, but essentially refer to the same technology. You may have heard of them referred to as “micro data centers,” “edge data centers,” or “containerized data centers.”

These local data centers are placed near data-generating sources – think of all the different data-collecting machines and IIoT devices in a smart factory, or for our defense and aerospace readers, the different vehicle, aircraft, and soldier sensors collecting data in the field – to improve response times, and in turn, boost speed, efficiency, and supervisory decision-making.

Now, think of the benefits this brings. Your automated manufacturing and production processes benefit from quicker insights, your big data infrastructure is more reliable, and your management team has the data it needs, faster, to make decisions, faster, which increases productivity at all levels of management, including logistics, operations, maintenance, quality, and general management, not to mention on the floor itself.

Edge computing is arguably the 10th pillar of industry 4.0, or it could be considered a supplement to the cloud computing pillar, given that the two function in tandem with each other. In the next section, we’ll provide some use cases to aid in your understanding of how edge computing and industry 4.0 are a match made in smart manufacturing heaven.

A graphically altered photo of a person assessing the state of a machine with an iPad, to showcase how edge computing can assist with industry 4.0 and industrial internet of things (IIoT) processes

Graphic: Edge computing has its place in numerous industry 4.0 use cases. 

Two scenarios for edge computing and industry 4.0

We have written two separate scenarios to showcase the positive relationship between edge computing and industry 4.0.

  1. Equipment uptime and predictive maintenance scenario: IIoT sensors attached to an assembly line robot regularly transfer speed, temperature, and volume data to a nearby edge server, which, thanks to its proximity, can quickly analyze it and deliver machine health and productivity insights to a maintenance and operations supervisor. One day, the supervisor notices frequent temperature spikes indicative of a potential overheating event. So, to prevent assembly line downtime, as well as costly damage to the robot and other equipment on the floor, the supervisor takes preemptive steps to solve the problem, an otherwise impossible feat without edge computing and industry 4.0 technologies.
  2. Computer vision system and quality scenario: A computer vision system in a factory uses specialized cameras to monitor the quality of products traveling on a fast-moving conveyor belt. An edge server deployed nearby generates reports based on the data the system collects and can also use it to instruct the system to tell a robotic arm installed near the belt to remove any defective or otherwise low-quality products. One day, the robotic arm quickly removes a defective product as soon as the system notices it. Perfectly high-quality products on the conveyor belt were not removed, nor was the conveyor belt disrupted, because of a delayed response. Consider the outcome without the real-time response due to the deployment of an edge server.

An edge server manufactured by Trenton Systems is the perfect deployment for your industry 4.0 or industrial internet of things (IIoT) applications

Photo: Securing everything you need in an edge server for your IIoT application is stressful enough. We've made it easier for you by covering the business bases below.

Conclusion: 10 Questions to Ask Edge Server Manufacturers

As businesses and organizations continue to digitize their manufacturing and production processes, the adoption of edge servers and edge data centers will continue to increase.

Partnering with server manufacturers that not only keep pace with changing technological trends, like edge computing and industry 4.0, but that also have a reputation for outstanding quality and performance is crucial.

Here are 10 questions you can ask to generate discussion and help you determine whether an edge server manufacturer is the right fit:

  1. Have you successfully deployed edge servers for the industry 4.0 pillars discussed in this blog post - big data, automation, additive manufacturing, or the others - and can you provide examples of their continued success?
  2. What are your internal cybersecurity practices, and do you offer any custom options or additional hardware and software, such as custom BIOSes, TCG Opal 2.0 or Enterprise self-encrypting drives, and advanced Linux operating system security software, that will further protect my edge server?
  3. What sorts of quality, compliance, and counterfeit protection programs do you have in place to ensure the reliability and security of my edge server once it leaves your facility?
  4. Where do you source your hardware, and do you have partnerships with leading computer hardware manufacturers, such as Intel and NVIDIA, to ensure that my solution always has the latest and greatest technology?
  5. Would you be willing to let me test the solution for an extended period without charge?
  6. Where do you perform your compliance testing?
  7. Will you describe the terms and conditions of your warranty?
  8. How do you handle revision and obsolescence control?
  9. Where is your support team located should I need answers to my questions fast?
  10. To what extent is your engineering team able to offer me a custom computing solution, particularly with regard to high-performance data storage and processing at the edge?

As always, Trenton Systems is here to answer these questions and more should you be interested in choosing the world's leading made-in-USA rugged computing solutions manufacturer for your edge server deployment.

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