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The Digital Plant Will Transform Industries

The Digital Plant Will Transform Industries

The cyber plant or advanced manufacturing will disrupt how products get made and who contributes to the production process. This disruption will be discussed at the Automation Technology Conference in Minneapolis in September. In the panel, Beyond the Paperless Plant: Mastering the Cyber-Physical Transformation, industry experts will discuss the impact of intelligent manufacturing. We caught up with panelist Ashish Verma, director of analytics and information management at Deloitte, to get some idea of the impact of advanced manufacturing.

The move to a fully connected plant that manages IoT data into Big Data analysis will change manufacturing to the point of creating a new ecosystem of technology providers. New products will be created to match the digital plant. Data from manufacturing and end-users will become part of the product's design. "The digital plant gives rise to new business models. It is transforming manufacturing processes as well as the entire manufacturing ecosystem," Verma told Design News. "The transformative technology includes device and asset management, cognitive technology, cloud computing, automation, and robotics."

One area that will see significant advancement over the next few years will be machine learning. Plant software will begin to anticipate its own programming based on past configurations. As the plant is set up for a new product, the software will be able to interact with control engineers, suggesting past programming modules when it recognizes similarities to the new configurations. "The digital plant is revolutionizing data and analytics under the banner of IoT and machine learning algorithms that are designed to continuously learn and provide contextual analysis," said Verma.

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As the fully digitized plant emerges, new vendors will enter the plant ecosystem, displacing former partners such as integrators and on-site programmers. Software will begin to take the place of these disciplines. "The digital transformation gives rise to new technology partners and ecosystems across sensor manufacturers and network providers," said Verma. "They provide connectivity that can make its way into private or public clouds where software ingests, stores, mashes-up, and builds algorithms from the data."

Much of the technology to run the digital plant is already in use, including IIoT, smart sensors, wireless networks, conditional monitoring systems, and sophisticated HMI. The next major step will be the development of software that can tie all of these systems into an intelligent whole. Once that's accomplished, the nature of manufacturing, how it's run, and who runs it, will begin to change. For one thing, customer-use feedback will begin to drive both design and manufacturing. "While the digital plant is not necessarily new, there is an unprecedented opportunity for organizations to define their strategic choices and positioning in this ecosystem," said Verma. "Its impact is profound for the enterprise, the consumer, and the worker. We're at a pivotal point where industries are transforming."

[image via Deloitte]

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 15 years, 12 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

TAGS: Automation
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