To maximise automation, manufacturers must integrate business apps
As automation plays an ever-greater role in the manufacturing industry, many people imagine teams of robots on an assembly line turning raw materials into useful products. While this image is not inaccurate, it offers only a partial view of what’s happening in factories and industrial facilities worldwide.
To maximize efficiency, manufacturers are increasingly automating their business processes, using cloud-based applications for supply chain and demand planning, project management, customer relationship management, analytics and business intelligence, vendor management and a range of other functions.
These applications help manufacturing companies of all sizes streamline complex operations while reducing the number of hours—and mistakes—generated by manual data entry. It’s not surprising that manufacturers have been adopting these apps by the hundreds.
But if producers of goods want to reap the full benefits of automation, it won’t be enough to simply adopt more business apps. Without a solid strategy to integrate these applications so they can seamlessly share important data, manufacturers risk lagging behind.
The Importance of Integration
As companies use more and more business applications, they risk losing the productivity gains these apps promise. Many apps collect important information but keep it siloed, which means the data must be entered manually into other apps. So instead of offering a smooth, automated experience, they can end up adding manual processes that can cause both delays and mistakes.
To get the greatest benefit from best-in-class apps for specific jobs or processes, automatically synchronising data across multiple applications is the key to saving time and effort. Integration of applications means a business, its partners, its customers and its employees will have the information they need in the applications they’re using, without the need for manual input.
An integration-first strategy is crucial. Proactively developing an integration strategy means manufacturers will be able to avoid operational issues before they happen. Delaying it means playing catch-up later, losing valuable time to manual processes when problems occur.
Businesses use different techniques to integrate business applications, including native integrations, the do-it-yourself approach, point-to-point connectors and integration platform-as-a-service (iPaaS). Manufacturers should understand the pros and cons of these approaches before they settle on a strategy.
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The do-it-yourself approach cannot work without considerable technical expertise, which doesn’t come cheap. DIY means building integration solutions from the ground up and paying considerable sums for any product that requires customisation.
Native integrations and point-to-point connectors only work with specific use cases and are not easy to scale. Many businesses have found that native integrations and point-to-point connectors only solve a limited number of problems.
The Popularity of iPaaS
As they integrate mission-critical business apps, a growing number of companies today are skipping native integrations, the DIY approach and other techniques in favor of iPaaS.
These platforms handle the lion’s share of integration requirements out of the box, for example, guaranteed data delivery and governance, so these important capabilities don’t need to be built from scratch. Integration platforms are reliable and easy to monitor and tend to be easier to update than custom integration projects are.
Importantly, iPaaS integrations can be easily tailored to the needs of individual businesses. This means iPaaS is faster and more reliable than connecting multiple systems with custom-built or point-to-point integrations.
For manufacturers, automation means quite a lot more than getting machines to produce products that were once made by human hands. It means making sure all business processes work together smoothly.
Adding new business applications moves manufacturers closer to real automation, but it doesn’t get them all the way there. Without a workable strategy to integrate these apps, manufacturing businesses end up expending more time and effort – hurting the bottom line.
Integration means automation can take work off your company’s plate, not add more to it. But manufacturers need to take a close look at the various techniques that exist to integrate their applications.
Many businesses today are finding that iPaaS is the strategy that offers flexibility, scalability, cost-effectiveness and ease of use.
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.