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Virtually expanding the factory floor, actually expanding production during trying times

Oct. 8, 2020
How cloud applications are helping manufacturers adapt to changing workplaces and the workers within them.

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Cloud applications enable remote work, which has never been more necessary than during this trying time. We caught up with Charlie Norz, WAGO’s automation product manager, to discuss the changing workplace and the workers within it, the growing adoption of cloud applications, virtually expanding factory floor space, and getting the job done while sailing. Take a look…

Smart Industry: How have cloud applications enabled manufacturers to respond to this challenging pandemic period?

Charlie: The 2020 pandemic has affected all of our lives. Most people have found a way to pivot their personal and professional lives to address the challenges with the global spread of the virus. Many of us in our professional lives are working from a home office and shifting to virtual meetings and sales calls. But what if you are involved in the manufacturing aspect of your company? How do you adjust your role? These questions have propelled the use of cloud applications by manufactures. Staff that used to be on the shop floor, in engineering offices or within quality labs are pivoting to using near-real-time Industrial Internet of Things applications to monitor, control and inspect their operations. People in manufacturing can be close to the plant floor—from home—using cloud applications.

Smart Industry: What vertical or industry best exemplifies proper use of cloud applications to enable true digital transformation?

Charlie: All manufacturing segments have been able to take advantage of cloud applications. However, factory applications seem to be the most affected by the pandemic. Close working environments and indoor facilities are typical on the plant floor, as opposed to large spaces and outdoor environments found in chemical and other process-based manufacturing. Factory-based manufacturing must find ways to extend working real estate to help with social distancing. Enabling staff to do some or all of their functions via a cloud application can reduce the number of people needed on the plant floor, thus virtually expanding floor space.

Smart Industry: And cloud applications have widened in terms of adoption and breadth of use.

Charlie: The pandemic has accelerated many technologies such as remote meeting tools, online supply chains and also industrial cloud applications. The need for remote access to a single location or multiple locations has fueled the use of centralized cloud-based tools used for manufacturing, and this trend will continue to expand as the balance of cloud and edge normalizes.

Smart Industry: What trend in cloud computing most excites you?

Charlie: Remote monitoring and analysis of the shop floor is the most interesting to me. As users shift to home offices, the future will be different. Why not succeed at your manufacturing job from your sailboat or mountain cabin? People will be able to live where they want, while still having the satisfaction of working in an industry that produces goods that sustains and improves lives. By the way, I am in the market for a 38-footer…