At the recent Cisco Live 2013 event in Orlando, I talked about the business value of converging operations technology (OT)—used for industrial automation systems—with IT business networks, in order to create more secure, end-to-end, standard communications and control. Regarding business value of IT/OT convergence for machine builders/integrators and consequently their manufacturing customers, I referenced a case study involving Comau Group that Al Presher from DesignNews recently picked up in a blog entitled “Connectivity Enabling Smart Manufacturing.”
Comau is a leading supplier and partner for most global automakers, integrating welding and assembly lines that coordinate dozens of robots and ancillary automation across multiple stations.
The order-to-engineering sign-off cycle requires months and the consequent build and commissioning to full production adds many more months for a new or refreshed manufacturing line.
Multiple fieldbus protocols at the device level complicate both design and implementation, requiring more integration services—time and money—to make the system work.
By designing a converged IT/OT “Connected Machine” solution that utilizes IP-standards-based, off-the-shelf modularity with a network architecture validated for both business and controls topologies, Comau has been able to reduce engineering cycles and cut integration time by more than two-thirds. Quoting an Engineering Manager from the company, “Installation, commissioning and debugging for 10 stations with 12-15 robots takes a couple days, rather than 1-2 weeks.”
Those cycle-time reductions in design and commissioning benefit the end-user manufacturer, as well, by accelerating time to full production and revenue generation.
Furthermore, the converged IT/OT solution provides for secure remote access, diagnostics and maintenance by OEM Machine Builder expertise.
Secure access for remote visibility and expertise infusion has demonstrated lifecycle TCO reductions of more than 30% at manufacturing customers who have adopted the converged IT/OT solution architecture.
As demonstrated with Comau and their manufacturing customers, there is business value to be gained from converged IT and OT:
- Agility with Efficiency, to shift capacities and meet new demands;
- Speed with Security, to enhance global operations with secure remote access; and
- New Business Models, to enable valuable services via machine-to-machine networks.
Where do you see converged IT/OT solutions benefiting your manufacturing business?