3 Ways Edge Computing Can Transform Line Operations

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Edge computing is a clever way of dealing with the vast amount of data coming out of capable devices on the line and the latency it can cause, by using the computing capability of the devices themselves to analyze, filter, and manage that data. It also makes line operations more visible to those responsible for managing them, allowing them to make more informed independent decisions.

Let’s look at three different ways edge computing can transform the way you perceive and manage your line. It enables you to:

  1. Monitor real time performance
  2. Manage a broad network all at once
  3. Transport data without worrying about protocols while maintaining security

Each of these can give your capabilities a real boost. Together, they can enable some fairly significant changes.

Monitor real-time performance
The image a smart camera acquires contains a lot of information, and in the case of industrial image-based barcode readers, the system can do more than just read the code contents. It can also provide an image of the code so operators can see print quality issues or damage, and in some cases, process control metrics. The more sophisticated the camera, the wider and more detailed the information.

If a system is running at 40 parts per second and the read rate begins to decline, you can quickly get overwhelmed with rejected packages or goods. At that point you have a big question: should I stop the line and call a technician? Every minute counts, but that decline in the read rate could be the result of some temporary anomaly that has nothing to do with either the part or the barcode, so there may be nothing for that technician to find by the time they get to your line.

This is where edge-computing-enabled performance monitoring demonstrates its importance. By continuously reporting all data from every camera, an edge computing platform can provide continuous and detailed performance monitoring. Combined with active storage and analytics, this data can form a complete historic record of conditions on the line.

Every time there is a problem, the controls engineer can look back to see if any anomalies preceded it. Over time, edge computing and predictive maintenance make it possible to detect the first signs of an upcoming failure long before there is any effect on performance. The company would then start to see a reduction in maintenance costs and downtime.

For example, if runtime wear sometimes causes a printer malfunction—misplaced/torn labels or a clogged nozzle—after some period of time, it becomes possible to identify that root cause and ensure that printer service is performed exactly when needed.

Manage a broad network of devices all at once

Setting up a new production line involves complex coordination of many different mechanical and electrical systems. Installing the many sensors which enable those systems is no exception. Each device may require its own software setup interface along with a physical connection. And, once set up, managing all these devices is time-consuming and error prone.

Edge computing systems can streamline the setup and management of multiple cameras simultaneously: setting IP addresses, loading firmware, and installing configuration files.

device management
This ensures that each device has exactly the same features and software, and that over the course of their deployment there is no variation in software from one to the other. It also provides a log of all configuration changes in case a software change negatively impacts performance.

Transport data without worrying about protocols while maintaining security

The usefulness of edge computing data does not end at the edge. It serves as cleaned inputs to a wide range of other systems, including enterprise resource planning (ERP), manufacturing execution system (MES), and specific line of business applications hosted in the cloud.

Given the way systems and software have typically been acquired and updated, a plant or a business may have numerous devices and software, from different manufacturers, with different message standards and protocols. Interoperability is a constant problem. How can all the systems that could use this data get access to it?

Fortunately, edge computing has the capability to generate and transmit data in many formats. This data can be used as-is by other systems, enabling them to perform their functions without any worries about compatibility.

Performing computation at the edge also has security advantages. By distributing processing, storage, and applications to various locations, edge computing makes it much less likely that any disruption will take down the entire system. Additionally, by processing data locally rather than sending every bit to the cloud, edge computation minimizes the amount of data exposed in transmission.

data security

Edge computing: helping the line, and the factory

Even as edge computing helps the line engineers who are working at the edge, it provides effective inputs that allows legacy software and other systems to continue to perform their essential functions. To learn more, download the Edge Computing Whitepaper.



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