Exploring Edge Computing in Industrial Automation and Manufacturing

Posted by Robert Faulkner on June 13, 2023

The automotive sector has long been a leader in industrial automation, using robotics, artificial intelligence, and other Industry 4.0 technologies to streamline manufacturing. However, the food and beverage sector is leading the growth of the industrial automation market, according to a new report from Allied Market Research. Oil refineries, mining companies, and other organizations in the energy sector are also driving demand.

The industrial edge plays a key role in industrial automation. Robots, sensors, controllers, and other devices generate large amounts of data that need to be processed in near real-time to maximize its value. Compute and storage resources must be deployed close to these systems to reduce latency. Edge data centers provide the infrastructure needed for IT equipment.

How Does Edge Computing Work in the Industrial Sector?

Commonly referred to as industrial edge computing, edge computing in the industrial and manufacturing sectors works the same as it does in any other sector. Instead of sending the data generated at industrial sites (warehouses, manufacturing facilities, etc.) off to a distant data center for processing, it’s all done locally or at a nearby edge data center. By bringing compute and storage closer to where the data is generated, organizations are able to quickly analyze data from a wide range of devices and use it to increase efficiency, improve processes and make better decisions. 

In most industrial environments, the edge should work in concert with cloud-based resources. While the edge is used to take immediate action, the cloud is used for long-term data storage, big data analytics, and machine learning applications.

Benefits of Edge Computing in Industrial and Manufacturing Sectors

Ultra-low latency is the primary benefit of edge computing, but there are many others. The edge allows organizations to conserve network bandwidth by reducing the amount of data sent to the cloud. Organizations can also reduce cloud compute and storage costs by processing data locally. When compute and storage are decentralized, there’s less risk that data will be compromised or a cyberattack will take down the entire network.

The industrial edge also integrates IT with operational technology (OT), enabling complex data analysis that enables significant process improvements. Real-time, event-driven interactions between OT and business systems helps to maximize the value of industrial automation.

Edge Computing Use Cases In Manufacturing

The industrial edge enables organizations to fully embrace Industry 4.0 with a wide range of use cases. Examples include:

  • Predictive Maintenance. By deploying sensors alongside industrial equipment, organizations can gather data that allows them to predict when pieces of equipment or moving parts are going to break down or require maintenance. This is very valuable in industrial sectors where downtime comes with significant costs.
  • Quality Control. As manufacturers automate their production lines, it’s important to also automate quality control processes. Sensors, instruments, and computer vision can be used to detect problems, enabling the manufacturer to take action quickly to minimize the number of defective units.
  • Inventory and Product Tracking. Technologies such as Bluetooth and RFID can be used to track the inventory of raw materials as well as finished products as they move off the line. Product tracking can be integrated with warehousing, inventory management, and shipping processes to reduce costs and shrinkage and optimize the supply chain.
  • Artificial Intelligence. With more powerful, high-performance compute resources at the edge, organizations can take better advantage of AI and machine learning applications. Most of the data used for AI in industrial sectors is machine-generated, so it is not subject to the bias and noise of other types of business data. Utilizing AI at the edge allows organizations to utilize smart machines to enhance their manufacturing operations.

Infrastructure for the Industrial Edge

A big challenge with edge computing in industrial facilities is the environment. Conditions can be less than ideal for traditional IT equipment. Operators need a solution that can handle less controlled environments easily. That’s where the Enconnex EdgeRack Industrial 8M comes in.

The 8M is an edge micro data center cabinet designed specifically for industrial environments. It provides a self-contained, plug-and-play infrastructure for the industrial edge. With built-in cooling capacity and dust- and water resistance (NEMA 12 and IP55 ratings), the EdgeRack Industrial 8M protects your valuable IT equipment. 

Let the experts at Enconnex help you select the right solutions for your industrial edge data center. Browse our micro data centers for sale and give us a call to discuss your specific needs.


Posted by Robert Faulkner on June 13, 2023

Robert Faulkner is the Vice President of Engineering and Operations at Enconnex. He comes from a strong background in product management with over 20 years in the IT industry. He currently holds an MSME and CDCD certification. He earned his MS degree in Mechanical Engineering at University of Nevada, Reno.

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