At the AIOT Solutions for Smart Manufacturing and Devices forum held during the Advantech IoT CoCreation Summit in Suzhou, Vice President of Industrial Automation Group, Allan Tsay, Executive Director of the Smart Manufacturing Institute, Min Chao, Associate Vice President of Advantech Manufacturing Operations, Jamie Lin, General Manager of Inspur Cloud, Wen-hui Zhao, and other key industry voices jointly explored the business opportunities for smart manufacturing.
On the topic of, “Working Together to Create a New Era of Smart Manufacturing”, Tsay said that the most crucial thing over the next three years is joining hands with partners, developing rapidly, and moving towards a new era of smart manufacturing.
After introducing Advantech’s smart manufacturing factory and intelligence center, Tsay pointed out that smart manufacturing is not about mass production capabilities, but rather about whether production can be tailored for specific customer needs. With the revolution in big data driving Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) development, collecting important data through smart devices, providing optimized analytics, and ultimately, improving productivity, quality, and sales is crucial.
Tsay stressed that, “To utilize data effectively, the industry’s experience with data application is key.” To that end, Advantech works hard to combine industrial application analysis, refine production and equipment data, and build a cloud-based manufacturing headquarters with data at the core. Furthermore, the accumulated experiences of business operators are being combined to provide better services and achieve outstanding outcomes. From his point of view, the three major factors that drive enterprises toward smart manufacturing are insight, determination, and inheritance. All industries are advised to think about how to harness the current IoT wave to best empower their industries and add value to their businesses.
Exploring the underlying code to IIoT and smart manufacturing
Min Chao, executive director of the Smart Manufacturing Institute, is a well-known expert in the field of smart manufacturing. He believes that IIoT is the foundation of smart manufacturing, the cornerstone of which is, software-defined networking.
So, what is the definition of smart manufacturing? Chao concluded that it is the process of transforming human intelligence into machine intelligence. He said, “The basic logic of ‘software-defined networking’ is to explicate human implicit knowledge (thoughts, algorithms, reasoning) and precipitate it as explicit knowledge. The knowledge is embedded in the software, the software is embedded in the chip, the chip is embedded in the hardware, and the hardware is embedded in the object (physical device). Constructed in accordance with such a basic structure, from the liberation of human labor in the past to the saving of brain power as can be seen today, smart manufacturing spans and realizes the closed circuit-enabling system of computing, networking and physical entities—so called, Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS).”
Chao further elaborated that the essence of manufacturing is reducing the uncertainty of complex systems. Based on CPS and software-defined networking, the data loop of state awareness, instant analysis, decision making, precise execution, and learning progress is constructed, and the data formed by software is deployed automatically to eliminate the uncertainty of complex systems. A manufacturing process that optimizes the allocation of resources at a given time and in targeted scenarios is the real test of smart manufacturing systems.
Chao believes that industry needs to complete internal reforms first, and then consider upstream and downstream industry chains, before finally addressing the entire ecosystem holistically. The role of the government input in productively working with companies from all walks of life will also be critical to success.
The Road to Smart Factory Upgrades
Data-Driven Management is the core of Advantech’s manufacturing base in Kunshan, where smart factory upgrades are being implemented. While sharing his experience of smart manufacturing, Lin pointed out that before the introduction of the smart factory system, production-related results could only be obtained from the production line at the end of each week or month as an example of remedial management. However, traditional manual operations and management have no way to meet increasingly complex market changes and both production personnel and managers need to obtain timely information on equipment and production status.
Jamie said that production work is no longer as cumbersome and repetitive as in the past. Smart monitoring and enhanced decision making is being achieved via the deployment of new sensor technology and machine vision. According to official Advantech data, the benefits of importing automated production lines in 2017 were as follows: where the total number of employees in the factory area decreased by 2.2%, the per capital output value increased by 16.9%, and the total output value increased by 16.3%, and the energy consumption / output ratio decreased by 7%.
In addition, Lin pointed out the need for combining industrial/technological transformation with changes in corporate culture to enable everyone to better understand the importance of data-driven decision-making and action.
The Ecology of Inspur Cloud
The cloud computing + big data paradigm is replacing the computer + high processing paradigm as the defining feature of industrial upgrades in the IoT era. Inspur Cloud has been an early adoptee of the movement from the cloud to beyond the cloud, and from a cloud strategy 1.0 to a cloud computing + big data 2.0. Now we are moving to the third stage: cloud computing + data + intelligence.
Evolutionary logic is not difficult to understand. In Inspur Cloud’s view, the collection and processing of industrial big data is the core competence of IIoT. Therefore, IIoT platforms should have three capabilities: cloud service support, enterprise information service capabilities, and experience related to advanced manufacturing models.
In this IIoT cloud era, Inspur Cloud, unlike rivals Alibaba and Tencent, seems to be more of a fusion-based cloud model. IIoT is an industry and application ecosystem formulated by the deep integration of a new generation of information technology and industrial systems. Chao explained that the Inspur Cloud IIoT platform integrates new technologies – such as cloud computing, big data, Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence – with industrial systems in many different aspects. Inspur Cloud helps enterprises build cloud-based systems driven by dual-mode IT architectures to realize the re-integration of internal products, deliver improved new services, and promote the digital transformation of enterprises.
In addition, Inspur Cloud’s IIoT also emphasizes the deep integration of hardware reconfiguration and software definition. Chao said that there are three keys to success: opening of infrastructure and ecology, convergence of public, private, hosted, and community clouds in the cloud computing market, and system security.