Manufacturing in the clouds

The term “computing in the cloud” is the latest topic in the enterprise computing space. The image of a cloud is used in network architecture diagrams to represent the Internet. Computing in the cloud simply means using applications and services available through the Internet.


The term “computing in the cloud” is the latest topic in the enterprise computing space. The image of a cloud is used in network architecture diagrams to represent the Internet. Computing in the cloud simply means using applications and services available through the Internet.

Computing in the cloud is essentially the outsourcing of a complete service where the service user does not know or care where the service is hosted. Examples of services available “in the cloud” are sales force automation, customer relationship management, payroll, taxes, e-commerce, accounting, and data backups.

Cloud computing service providers use computer clusters and large server farms to meet expected demand. With a large number of users, they can offer inexpensive services because of a significant economy of scale.

Cloud computing users also gain some significant economic advantages. They have no capital expenses. They have reduced service costs because of a simplified IT infrastructure. They do not have to buy systems scaled to their worst case use scenarios, and there is a reduction in large client applications. The primary disadvantages are the risks associated with Internet reliability, and the financial stability of the service provider.

As cloud computing becomes more commonplace, IT managers and CTOs will ask if manufacturing can operate in the cloud, and manufacturing organizations should have an answer. The typical cloud computing application adds a lot of risk in a manufacturing environment. The service is accessible through an uncontrolled network (the Internet), and there is little control of external problems, such as bankruptcy, flood, fire, earthquakes, and weather disasters.

These problems mean that cloud computing cannot be used for mission critical applications. However, manufacturing organizations can use the concepts of cloud computing in mission critical applications in a local mode.

We can use cloud types to describe different types of cloud computing. The highest clouds are cirrus clouds and the cirrus cloud model can be defined as Internet hosted services. Stratus clouds are intermediate level clouds and can represent the cloud computing model used within your company's business network. Cumulus clouds are low lying clouds and can represent the cloud computing model used within your company's manufacturing operations network.

Not mission critical

The cirrus cloud computing model is suitable for non-mission-critical applications, such as document management, analysis applications, and system backup. These services can often be offline for short periods of time and do not require 24x7 accessibility.

Applications that are not business critical can follow a status cloud computing model. These would be applications hosted through the company's intranet in a single server cluster. This is often the model used for corporate email, controlled document management, document workflow applications, and knowledge management applications.

Applications that are manufacturing mission critical and that normally run in a company's manufacturing operations network can follow the cumulus cloud model. In this model all of the manufacturing operations networks within a site would be combined into a single network. This is a network that is firewall- and access-protected from the business network with no direct access to the Internet. Common applications would then be hosted from a site manufacturing server farm.

Examples of these applications include MES, SCADA, HMI, LIMS, and data historian systems. There are significant advantages of scale if you can provide site-wide services from a single server cluster. However, not all applications can operate in a cluster, so check with your vendors to see which applications can be clustered and consolidated into a single manufacturing server farm. Answer upcoming questions about manufacturing computing in the cloud by creating your own site-level computing cloud for mission critical manufacturing applications.


ONLINE extra

Also see, from Control Engineering : Honeywell Process Solutions: 34th Americas User Group, 6 areas of change in next 10 years

Author Information
Dennis Brandl is president of BR&L Consulting in Cary, NC, . His firm focuses on manufacturing IT. Contact Dennis at .

The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
Doubling down on digital manufacturing; Data driving predictive maintenance; Electric motors and generators; Rewarding operational improvement
2017 Lubrication Guide; Software tools; Microgrids and energy strategies; Use robots effectively
Prescriptive maintenance; Hannover Messe 2017 recap; Reduce welding errors
The cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Mobility as the means to offshore innovation; Preventing another Deepwater Horizon; ROVs as subsea robots; SCADA and the radio spectrum
Research team developing Tesla coil designs; Implementing wireless process sensing
Commissioning electrical systems; Designing emergency and standby generator systems; Paralleling switchgear generator systems
Natural gas engines; New applications for fuel cells; Large engines become more efficient; Extending boiler life

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
Featured articles highlight technologies that enable the Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies to get data more easily to the user.
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me