September/October 2021 | Vol. 26 No. 5
by Frank Kulaszewicz, Senior Vice President of Life Cycle Services, Rockwell Automation
Gartner estimates that by 2025, 75 percent of enterprise-generated data will be “created and processed outside a traditional centralized data center or cloud.”
During his tenure at Rockwell Automation, Mr. Kulaszewicz has held several key leadership roles in the Drive Systems, Standard Drives, and Control & Visualization businesses. Most recently, he served as Senior Vice President, Control Products & Solutions.
As manufacturers exponentially increase their development of data with the adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and devices, they must adopt computing capabilities that can keep up with this flood of information. Edge computing enables intelligent manufacturing for today and the future.
DEFINING EDGE COMPUTING
As the world becomes more connected and the cloud’s influence extends into the industrial and manufacturing domain, the need for faster and more efficient information processing is increasing. Real-time constraints, cybersecurity threats, and overburdened communication channels have highlighted the need also to process manufacturing data at the point of production, complementing the processing of data transmitted to a cloud server. This localized focus on data processing and storage is known as edge computing.
ENABLING INTELLIGENT MANUFACTURING
One of the largest disruptive trends in recent years has been Smart Manufacturing, which integrates the Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) layers by harnessing manufacturing data’s value. Edge computing capabilities can be leveraged to address some of today’s critical Smart Manufacturing initiatives, such as Digital Transformation and Industry 4.0, by building upon the connectivity of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) assets across multiple customer facilities. Data from manufacturers can be utilized across the network, empowering end users to make better business decisions based on the current status. Providing this transparency to data allows for improved operational productivity that will shorten time to value for our customers.
ENHANCING LEGACY SYSTEMS
Previous generations of connected systems limited the user to technology and information available at the time the system was manufactured. Evolution of cloud computing applications leveraged increasing communication network capability, allowing data to be accessible from outside the system, but typically required a costly security infrastructure that was not tailored to the needs of the individual manufacturer. With its more modular architecture and secure connectivity, edge computing can be updated to meet any new technologies, threats, or regulatory requirements that may impact the manufacturing segment. Manufacturers are therefore able to remain current without the costly burden of having to update their entire system.
Edge computing provides pathways for information to flow from end devices through the system layers and can be positioned at the control layer, reducing the need for complex networked solutions with a high attack footprint, as the data remains local to the asset. This proximity also allows for faster information flow, enhancing the compute capability to make timely decisions when unforeseen events occur, such as anomaly detection on conveyance lines. Another advantage of edge computing is its ability to communicate on standardized industry networks, such as Ethernet/IP.
As devices and new technologies grow with time, information flow can continually be updated, mitigating the forced obsolescence faced by traditional systems. Here at Rockwell, we see edge computing as the next step toward building the most efficient, environmentally responsible, and secure manufacturing system possible. ei