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As cloud computing transforms multiple industries many have wondered about how this trend will affect manufacturing

As cloud computing simultaneously transforms multiple industries many have wondered about how this trend will affect manufacturing. Often characterized as "staid," this vertical is not often cited when leading edge technological change is the topic. This view, however, fails to address the revolutionary nexus of cloud computing and the manufacturing industry. Referred to as Digital Thread and Digital Twin; these cloud driven concepts are now driving this vertical's future.

Digital Thread is a communication framework that connects traditionally siloed elements in manufacturing processes in order to provide an integrated view of an asset throughout the manufacturing lifecycle. Digital thread implementation also requires business processes that help weave data-driven decision management into the manufacturing culture.

A Digital Twin is a virtual representation of a manufacturer's product used in product design, simulation, monitoring, optimization and servicing. They are created in the same computer-aided design (CAD) and modeling software that designers and engineers use in the early stages of product development. A digital twin is, however, retained for later stages of the product's lifecycle, such as inspection and maintenance.

Figure 1: The smart manufacturing landscape

When successfully combined these processes can deliver on the promise of Smart Manufacturing, which include:

  • Ability to receive published data from equipment using secure open standards, analyze and aggregate the data, and trigger process controls back to equipment, systems of record and process workflows across the enterprise and value chain connected via A2A and B2B open standards.
  • Autonomous and distributed decision support at the device, machine and factory level.
  • Ubiquitous use of mined information throughout the product value chain including end-to-end value chain visibility for each product line connecting manufacturer to customers and supplier network.
  • Enhanced information- and analytics-based decision making on large amounts of raw data gathered from the smart manufacturing equipment and processes.
  • New levels of efficiency to support new services and business models including mass customization (highly configured products) and product-as-a-service.; and
  • Provide a broad portfolio of these advanced capabilities to manufacturers of all sizes and in all industry sectors, at acceptable levels of cost and implementation complexity.

Although at first glance these goals seem overly ambitious, they are being realized today because technologies and integration standards have come together to fuel this revolution. Required building blocks include:

  • Smart machines and advanced robotics -These machines recognize product configurations and diagnostic information, and make decisions and solve problems without human intervention.
  • Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) - Devices with network and internet connectivity that are active participants in event-driven, self-healing manufacturing processes integrated with open standards that support connectivity.
  • Cloud services - On-demand information technology services that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.
  • Enterprise integration platforms - Platforms that have the ability to receive data broadcast from equipment via secure open standards. These applications analyze and aggregate the data, and trigger process controls, history recording, and work flows that enable business processes across value chain systems that can then be integrated via application-to-application (A2A) and business-to-business (B2B) open standards.

Digital Thread and Digital Twin also enable the evolution in the manufacturing field often referred to as Industry 4.0. This next phase increases manufacturing efficiencies while reducing both cost and time of delivery. It brings together data, cloud computing, and cyberphysical systems in order to deliver:

  • Industrialization where machines supported human work
  • Optimization where assembly lines increased productivity
  • Automation, where machines largely replaced humans
  • Digitalization, where information technology with its broad portfolio becomes an integral part of manufacturing.

Cloud computing has extended many benefits to manufacturing because those businesses can now:

  • Rely more on standard cloud services allowing them to focus on business-critical functions.
  • Reduce capital expenditures significantly
  • Relieves manufacturer of the burden to license, deploy, and maintain baseline IT services like email, collaboration, unified communication, and human relation management
  • Enhance operational flexibility through the use of rapid IT scalability.

In summary, the combination of digital thread, digital twin and cloud computing enables both smart manufacturing and Industry 4.0. If you're company isn't deeply leveraging all of these concepts today, you don't know anything about manufacturing.

Cloud Musings

(Thank you. If you enjoyed this article, get free updates by email or RSS - © Copyright Kevin L. Jackson 2016)

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Kevin Jackson, founder of the GovCloud Network, is an independent technology and business consultant specializing in mission critical solutions. He has served in various senior management positions including VP & GM Cloud Services NJVC, Worldwide Sales Executive for IBM and VP Program Management Office at JP Morgan Chase. His formal education includes MSEE (Computer Engineering), MA National Security & Strategic Studies and a BS Aerospace Engineering. Jackson graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1979 and retired from the US Navy earning specialties in Space Systems Engineering, Airborne Logistics and Airborne Command and Control. He also served with the National Reconnaissance Office, Operational Support Office, providing tactical support to Navy and Marine Corps forces worldwide. Kevin is the founder and author of “Cloud Musings”, a widely followed blog that focuses on the use of cloud computing by the Federal government. He is also the editor and founder of “Government Cloud Computing” electronic magazine, published at Ulitzer.com. To set up an appointment CLICK HERE

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