The accelerating pace of manufacturing competition pushes the adoption of advanced automation system globally. Used widely in detection, optimization, control, management, scheduling, analyzing and decision-making in various production processes, industrial automation improves product quality and the quantity output, increases the safety of labor and lowers the production costs.
Industrial Computers At The Heart of Industrial Automation
Industrial automation roughly consists of three key components – hardware, software, and system. Needless to say, the industrial computer is the cornerstone of industrial automation, the core of automation equipment and the base of information infrastructure. The industrial computer is now the driving force of industrial automation and the innovation that pushes the boundaries of automation the way we know it.
The current challenge for the enterprises now is to monitor the growing market of industrial automation solutions and technologies. Keeping up with the trend allows the companies to select and apply the automation solutions that will keep them ahead of the global competition. This means the decision makers need to not only understand the currently available technologies but to continue an ongoing self-education to be able to see the perspective in the innovative solutions.
The industrial automation is the present and the future, and robotics is gaining momentum. Collaborative robots dramatically broaden industrial automation possibilities. The flexibility of robotic automation solutions allows the companies with modest budgets to implement them widely. The worldwide competition has been shaped by now, with USA, Germany, China, South Korea, and Japan accounting for three-quarters of robot sales globally. China aims to become the leader of the world’s most automated nations, with 150 robotic units per 10,000 employees by 2020, according to the International Federation of Robotics.
The industrial computers drive the robotics industry, allowing for the industrial automation and digital information from sensors, cameras, the numerous IoT and industrial software to meet in a robust and easy-to-use interface of an industrial computer that can operate in rugged environments, is portable, has a significantly longer lifespan than the consumer PCs, and effectively a lower TCO.
The consumer industry has influenced the changes in the industrial PCs evolution. The push for smaller, mobile and ever more robust and powerful devices has urged the industrial computers to keep up with the general trend. The past decade saw such advancements in the industry that allowed the industrial PCs to become smaller but handle the big data and analytics that require huge computing power. The capability of industrial PCs to handle big data increase the productivity and manufacturing performance. At the same time, the availability of multiple builds and solutions has made industrial PCs affordable for manufacturers of all sizes.
Powered by industrial PCs, industrial automation systems capture, process and analyze a wide range of data, the Big Data. That analyzed data is then effectively used to:
- Improve productivity and performance
- Make predictive maintenance possible, which helps manufacturers avoid production interruptions due to machine failures
- Improve equipment utilization and overall equipment effectiveness
- Run the equipment at optimized energy output, minimizing the production costs even further
- Remotely access control systems with industrial mobile devices
- Manage and control cybersecurity of the complex ecosystem
By capturing and analyzing data at every stage of production (through specially designed software, sensors and the industrial computer as the processing power of that data), manufacturers can review and create new manufacturing designs or optimize the existing ones. Big data allows the enterprises to connect, compare, assess different parts of the production cycle and use that information to make the production smarter, more cost-effective, and make predictive decisions.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution
The growth of industrial automation by now has shaped a new vision – Industry 4.0, which is a holistic approach that calls for omnidirectional modernization through the application of technology. The industrial automation adoption rates grow partly due to the fact that manufacturers now realize low labor rate is no longer a winning strategy. Industrial automation is.
This does not mean, however, that the machines are replacing humans – it means the humans need different skills. According to DMDII, The Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute, there are 600,000 unfilled positions in manufacturing around the country due to the technological skills gap, with Baby Boomers retiring and companies struggling to find skilled workers to replace them.
Industry 4.0, or the fourth industrial revolution, calls for the efficient implementation of the Internet of Things and communications technology in conjunction with the production. What else if not the industrial computer lets the multitude of machines communicate and offer a control and analysis interface to humans?
Industry 4.0 vision is grand and exciting. It envisions the achievement of the higher efficiency, productivity and self-managing processes, with industrial equipment, machines, logistics systems, IoT, communication systems, Big Data, analytics and humans communicating and cooperating directly. And the industrial computer is at the center of the intertwined web of these interactions. Namely, the mass production, affordability, and availability of industrial PCs.
The Industry 4.0 envisions the production of highly customizable produce in large quantities through industrial automation. In an environment, where production and logistics intelligently and effectively communicate creating a flexible manufacturing ecosystem, industrial computers play the key role.
A recently published Price Waterhouse Coopers report Industry 4.0: Building The Digital Enterprise says 72% of manufacturing enterprises expect their data analytics to improve their customer relations, while 35% of companies that already adopted Industry 4.0 expect their revenue to grow by 20% during the next 5 years.
Finally, the growing role of industrial automation, robotics, IoT and Big Data is projected to give life to new business models that will offer new opportunities for manufacturers big and small.
Just as mobile technologies have revolutionized the communications and entertainment sectors, the increasingly powerful industrial computers let the industrial automation revolutionize the manufacturing processes and even create new business models. The enterprises that will harness the benefits of the digital technologies will be ahead of the competition in the upcoming decade.