Jump starting digital transformation in manufacturing
Manufacturing has always been an industry which harnesses technology in order to deliver greater efficiency and productivity. It’s a trend which we’re set to see increase especially as more manufacturers adopt digital technologies and Industry 4.0 gains traction. In fact, IDC research suggests that by the end of 2019, 75% of large manufacturers will update their operations with Internet of Things (IoT) and analytics-based situational awareness.
IoT technology is changing the manufacturing industry and transforming traditional, linear manufacturing supply chains into dynamic, interconnected systems. IoT takes networked sensors and intelligent devices and puts those technologies to use directly on the manufacturing floor, collecting data to drive artificial intelligence and predictive analytics. It means that manufacturers have detailed real-time data at every point during the manufacturing process and through the distribution chain.
Creating a digital network
Manufacturers are increasingly using data to improve their production processes, achieve greater consistency, and to create safer working environments. The combination of the IoT and the increasing digitisation of information has resulted in an explosion of data. With systems and devices exchanging vast amounts of information, manufacturers need to ensure that robust real-time integrations are in place – as information is constantly being shared with supply partners and those within the distribution chain. This level of activity is likely to place substantial strain on IT infrastructure, especially the software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) which supports communications spanning large geographical areas.
Many of these existing networks are long in the tooth and were designed before digital manufacturing became commonplace. For Industry 4.0 to be successful manufacturers must have the appropriate network infrastructure in place which has the ability to prioritise applications and workloads to ensure appropriate service levels. With so many moving pieces, it’s important that IT teams build a strategic digital infrastructure platform that can support all of the initiatives enabling Industry 4.0.
Many CIOs in the manufacturing sector view increasing operational efficiency and transforming the business as imperative to driving technology investments. With this in mind, IT platforms should provide the integration and coordination required for success. However, it’s likely that the IT team will also utilise partners with specific expertise, skills, and technology. Managed service providers (MSPs) are a key component to any effective IT strategy as they offer leading solutions and the skills to deploy, administer, and manage them.
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However, when working with network service providers, manufacturing companies should let their risk management strategy lead the solution design. For instance, network connectivity should be prioritised for high-profile manufacturing plants that greatly impact revenue generation versus other, low-profile plants. Software defined network platforms offer state-of-the-art traffic prioritisation capabilities to create a completely customised IT infrastructure that gives precedence to critical locations, applications, and user groups. Most importantly, these priorities should be quickly and easily adaptable when things change.
With a focus on achieving a new level of automation that integrates any or all parts of manufacturing, it’s also important that IT teams take into account security considerations. As more systems ‘go online’ and data is shared across numerous partners, suppliers and location, the risk of cyberattacks increases. The deluge of data that IoT devices generate will be a huge target for malicious hackers looking to steal proprietary or personal data.
Manufacturing companies can use network segmentation as a way of separating and isolating individual product lines into sub-networks to provide security and improve performance. For instance, if a supplier was to be compromised then they could spread the infection through sharing data with others. SD-WAN allows IT teams to limit or block unauthorised applications in order to safeguard both security and performance.
However, it isn’t just security considerations which need to be accounted for, as new capabilities are introduced to the network it will also bring on new pressures. For instance, there is currently a big focus on machine learning and building machines which can act more intelligently. In doing so, manufacturers can optimise operations by changing activities based on key inputs, without the need for human intervention. The result will be better decision making on both sides of the supply chain. Intelligence at the product level enables proactive support or maintenance to limit any downtime or update products. Although the impact on IT infrastructure will be substantial, as the information being utilised increases logarithmically and requires real-time communications.
Technologies like IoT, big data analytics and SD-WAN are advancing manufacturing forward, with a more efficient workforce, safer operations, and maintaining high standards in production quality. With Industry 4.0 transforming the manufacturing industry into a digital model, the goal of a fully integrated organisation that designs, builds, delivers, and tracks the use of manufactured products is the top priority. It’s important to keep in mind that the starting point for the path to Industry 4.0 will be the deployment of a next-generation and secure IT infrastructure that can support individual projects that are the milestones of this journey.
Siemens: Providing the First Industrial 5G Router
Across a number of industry sectors, there’s a growing need for both local wireless connectivity and remote access to machines and plants. In both of these cases, communication is, more often than not, over a long distance. Public wireless data networks can be used to enable this connectivity, both nationally and internationally, which makes the new 5G network mainframe an absolutely vital element of remote access and remote servicing solutions as we move into the interconnected age.
Siemens Enables 5G IIoT
The eagerly awaited Scalance MUM856-1, Siemens’ very first industrial 5G router, is officially available to organisations. The device has the ability to connect all local industrial applications to the public 5G, 4G (LTE), and 3G (UMTS) mobile wireless networks ─ allowing companies to embrace the long-awaited Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
The router can be used to remotely monitor and service plants, machines, as well as control elements and other industrial devices via a public 5G network ─ flexibly and with high data rates. Something that has been in incredibly high demand after being teased by the leading network providers for years.
Scalance MUM856-1 at a Glance
- Scalance MUM856-1 connects local industrial applications to public 5G, 4G, and 3G mobile wireless networks
- The router supports future-oriented applications such as remote access via public 5G networks or the connection of mobile devices such as automated guided vehicles in industry
- A robust version in IP65 housing for use outside the control cabinet
- Prototypes of Siemens 5G infrastructure for private networks already in use at several sites
“To ensure the powerful connection of Ethernet-based subnetworks and automation devices, the Scalance MUM856-1 supports Release 15 of the 5G standard. The device offers high bandwidths of up to 1000 Mbps for the downlink and up to 500 Mbps for the uplink – providing high data rates for data-intensive applications such as the remote implementation of firmware updates. Thanks to IPv6 support, the devices can also be implemented in modern communication networks.
Various security functions are included to monitor data traffic and protect against unauthorised access: for example, an integrated firewall and authentication of communication devices and encryption of data transmission via VPN. If there is no available 5G network, the device switches automatically to 4G or 3G networks. The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and autoconfiguration of the devices,” Siemens said.
Preparing for a 5G-oriented Future
Siemens has announced that the new router can also be integrated into private 5G networks. This means that the Scalance MUM856-1 is, essentially, future-proofed when it comes to 5G adaptability; it supports future-oriented applications, including ‘mobile robots in manufacturing, autonomous vehicles in logistics or augmented reality applications for service technicians.’
And, for use on sites where conditions are a little harsher, Siemens has given the router robust IP65 housing ─ it’s “dust tight”, waterproof, and immersion-proofed.
The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. “With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and auto-configuration of the devices,” Siemens added.