As part of a recent event focused on future growth for manufacturing companies, an attendee from one of the largest companies in the world presented a solution the company is offering to industry. Like with any presentation on a technology offering, it included samples of the full capability of the system changing users and bringing them to a better place. Attendees, as usual, came out of the session thinking one of three things: 1. This company has it all figured out, we should work with them. 2. Our set of circumstances are different from all others, this is not for us, or 3. I need to learn more about this space to see which direction to take.
We tend to lean toward learning more as a default, so we asked Scott Phillips, one of the Executives in Residence with the Automation Alley Industry 4.0 Accelerator, to share thoughts on a few topics related to Hyperscalers.
Who are the hyperscalers and what is their role within Industry 4.0?
Hyperscalers are also known as Cloud Services Providers (CSPs). In the context of Industry 4.0, they offer Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). Examples of these companies include Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, IBM Cloud and Alibaba Cloud.
The future of Industry 4.0 from an information system architecture perspective can be thought of as a "tech stack". IaaS provides the foundation. Platforms-as-a-Service (PaaS) sit on top of the IaaS and provide industry-specific functionality. In the world of manufacturing, examples would include PTC Thingworx (PTC), Siemens Mindsphere, Litmus, Software AG, Braincube, SAP Hana, Tulip and Hitachi Lumada.
The top of the tech stack is all of the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) providers. The SaaS software solutions plug into the PaaS Platforms much like an app would plug into App Store or Google Play on your phone operating system. SaaS examples include software apps for machine monitoring, OEE dashboards, production scheduling, anomaly detection, digital work instructions, etc.
The vision of Industry 4.0 is that, over time, monolithic enterprise software such as ERP, MES or PLM will evolve and/or be replaced with SaaS-based micro-services that are more application specific.
How should manufacturers choose which one to use?
As manufacturers migrate from on-premise enterprise software to cloud-based micro-services, the decisions will focus more on which SaaS software apps and which platform to choose rather than which Hyperscaler/CSP to choose. That choice will often be influence by historical software and hardware vendor relationship as well as input from the company’s accounting partners, managed service providers and system integrators. Input from these trusted sources will inform on compatibility features between platforms.
What resources are available for Michigan manufacturers?
Manufacturers can educate themselves on this topic through webinars, trade shows, publications and peer-to-peer group discussions. CPAs, MSPs, and other management consultants can also provide advice. System Integration partners are a good source of information regarding system architectures.
There are two great industry events coming up that will provide opportunities for Michigan manufacturers to become more educated. The first is Automation Alley’s Industry 4.0 conference, Integr8, May 10 at Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi. The second is Automate, June 6-9 at the Huntington Place Convention Center in Detroit.