Service assurance for manufacturing automation

Under pressure to meet growing customer demand for the faster turnaround of high-quality products,

smart industry iot iiot industrial internet of things digital transformation

NETSCOUT's Eileen Haggerty

manufacturers are undergoing digital transformation. You might be one of them.

As a result, advanced technologies are becoming widespread within industry, with manufacturing businesses looking for ways with which to optimize their operations and enhance their capabilities. You might be one of them.

Indeed, a recent report by IDC suggests that within the next two years, three in five manufacturers will rely on digital platforms to support up to 30 percent of their revenue. You might be one of them.

Innovative data-center technology, for example, could improve a manufacturer’s CAPEX and OPEX, and result in more agile service-delivery. And automation technology already underpins a number of applications such as automated assembly lines, robotic small-form-factor assembly, and the “just in time” delivery of inventory that adjusts the procurement of raw materials to match precise forecasts for customer orders.

Manufacturers could enjoy even greater efficiencies by adding AI to these automated applications, enabling them to spot defects in a production line, for example, implement predictive maintenance, and improve safety.

What’s more, with the addition of service assurance driven by end-to-end visibility across networks, these efficiencies could be increased further still, enabling manufacturers to precisely identify the source of any network- or application-related degradation or outage that might impact an assembly line.

Embracing Industry 4.0

While the IIoT may offer a wealth of efficiency and cost-saving benefits, it also brings with it new risks. Disruptions can be worsened by faults with the technology. Machine-to-machine communications, automation technologies, IoT devices and sensors and the Manufacturing Execution System all depend on reliable, consistent connectivity and continuous bi-directional communication—over both wired and wireless networks—between robots, sensors and employees with mobile devices, scanners and workstations.

Should there be any degradation or failure in this communication, workflow on the factory floor can be impacted. I regularly hear stories of production lines being stopped mid-shift to troubleshoot issues—either to accommodate application communicating design specs to the line or in order to realign the production line.

Sometimes the impact is just five minutes. Other times it can last days. And it hurts the business—cutting into the expected volume of finished inventory ready for shipment and sale. If the plant works overtime to make up the difference the impact is higher cost of goods. Otherwise the impact may be fewer products to sell and ship, which in turn may impact resellers, distributors and revenue. It is easy to see why reducing the number and length of application slowdowns in the automated world is so critical!smart industry iot iiot industrial internet of things digital transformation

Regardless of the benefits of digital transformation, it’s clear that there can be no allowance for any performance degradation or outage when it comes to crucial “just-in-time” manufacturing processes.

Service assurance is a must.

End-to-end network visibility is able to provide this assurance by delivering the insights required to identify the root cause of degradations, wherever it may be located along the service-delivery path, enabling IT teams to resolve issues before they become serious problems.

As they become increasingly more automated, businesses become more dependent on the coordination of the entire manufacturing process—from initial design through production, with everything from sales, service, shipping and billing in between.

In an increasingly fast-paced and competitive market, the future of many manufacturing businesses depends on their successful digital transformation. This we all know. And service-assurance is key to achieving this. If businesses hope to maximize the opportunities that digital transformation presents, all while minimizing costly outages, IT teams within the manufacturing space will require the intelligence and insight that only full end-to-end network visibility can provide.

Eileen Haggerty is senior director of enterprise business operations with NETSCOUT.

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