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In partnership with IDC, Lumen research reveals the state of Edge Computing initiatives in the manufacturing sector, addressing how they are being used and their benefits. According to the results, these initiatives still seem to be shy in manufacturing environments. Only 27% of respondents, decision-makers, stated that Edge Computing solutions are already in production at their facilities. However, 56% of them intend to start pilot projects, while 17% are expected to move from testing to production.
The respondents were divided into two main classes: OT respondents and IT respondents. The main benefits sought by the first group are operational efficiency and better decision-making processes. On the other hand, the second class seeks better user experience, remote connectivity, and quality of products or services.
Edge computing technologies allow data to be collected, processed, and stored close to where it is generated, thus saving bandwidth and speeding up processes. Although data collection and asset tracking are the most popular applications, many other manufacturing sectors are expected to benefit over the next two years. Most cited in the study are workforce management, field services, security systems, and order tracking.
Practically, most respondents stated that the success of edge computing projects will depend on the involvement of both groups (IT and OT), but 38.3% consider that the OT area should lead and finance the work. A large proportion believes that there should be a collaborative approach between IT and OT.
From a motivational perspective, the study highlights that OT is more driven by the need to combine data and ensure resilience and reliability, while IT is much more focused on advanced analytics and connecting remote locations. These different viewpoints allow for a more balanced and comprehensive approach when both groups work together. And, the survey numbers show the success of this approach – manufacturing companies that have both IT and OT teams are 47% more likely to see their edge computing pilot projects advanced to the full production phase.
On the other hand, many companies face difficulties still in the pilot project. The most common problems are security issues (35.1%), securing more financial resources (35.1%), demonstrating ROI (29.8%), and further investments in infrastructure (28.7%). To overcome these obstacles and ensure success, especially in pilot projects, the best practice is to use the right KPIs (key performance indicators). KPIs linked to the functional areas where edge computing solutions are being deployed are much more likely to move projects from the PoC/pilot phase into production. Examples of these KPIs are inventory management, operational agility, incident frequency rate, sustainability, among others.
However, the research showed that using KPIs at the pilot stage is not practical – 72% of the manufacturing companies surveyed had not stipulated any KPIs.
When developing an edge computing initiative, it is also advisable to choose a suitable partner with industrial sector experience that can integrate and connect with the company’s existing infrastructure and has tested and proven security features. It is also worthwhile to present successful reference cases and to rely on innovative solutions that help transform manufacturing companies.