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Edge Learning is the Key to Increasing Automation Capabilities in Manufacturing

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In many ways, ours is a different world than it was even a year or two ago. For manufacturers, these differences are all too often highlighted by the need to perform at the same to higher levels. For this reason, many companies have looked to industry innovations surrounding automation and digital transformation. This approach has become known as the 4th Industry Revolution, or simply as Industry 4.0.

There are several reasons that companies around the world have decided that automating parts of their manufacturing process is in the company’s best interest:

  • Lower production costs

  • More efficient processes

  • Less downtime required for updates and repairs

Whatever the reason, nearly every company can benefit by increasing the levels of automation in the factory. At Intel, we've worked with multiple industrial solution providers to deliver new capabilities using industrial PCs equipped with our latest Intel processors. The manufacturers use our toolkits, such as our OpenVINO toolkit, as well as Edge Insights and Controls for Industrial Software available on our Edge Software Hub to help digest video and time series data, to build a solution for their particular use case. Using an off-the-shelf industrial PC with Intel's software development tools and reference designs solutions, they can deploy workloads that provide visibility to exactly what's happening in their operations and act on it in real time. – This can be applied in many areas - whether it's a defect detection, how a given robot is performing a weld operation, or how the product is flowing across the factory line. This automation also gives operators more access to real-time insights. Companies can also take action on those insights and do all of this in a more automated way across their operations.

Some companies also need the ability to have more IT kinds of capabilities for their OT system, where they have the ability to manage and orchestrate the different applications and workloads that are happening in their factory, similar to what they have in their IT infrastructure today.

What is Intel’s Role?

Intel is invested in understanding the challenges that manufacturers face and how our products and technologies can be utilized by our breadth of ecosystem partners to deliver solutions to address those challenges. In addition, we have invested to bring new capabilities into our silicon platforms that provide existing compute, security, and more capabilities, as well as support for industrial control needs in the areas of real time and determinism for operation in a harsh environment.

We have invested in, and launched within the last year, products with industrial IOT features in our Intel Atom processor product line and our Intel Core processor product line, and even some features into our Intel Xeon processor product line, that really help the developers working on our systems to deploy solutions and provide the features that are needed in industrial environments. Coupling our hardware with tools like our OpenVINO Toolkit and Edge software offerings helps to optimize the edge inference workloads on those platforms, making it easy for customers to have one development environment across the range of products.

Intel has enabled a breadth of ecosystem partners to deliver these solutions. These ecosystem solutions are our market ready solutions and breadth of Industrial PC offerings based on Intel products and technologies.

Intel’s Edge Software for Industrial Applications

To help companies achieve their goals, Intel has built two software reference designs specifically for use in the industrial manufacturing space known as Edge Insights for Industrial and Edge Controls for Industrial. Both reference designs are available through Intel’s Edge Software Hub, and can be used by solution providers, and ultimately manufacturers, to bring the capabilities of a more open platform approach to an industrial system. This allows for increased intelligence at the edge, along with the increased IT kinds of capabilities that factory owners are looking for. Intel’s ecosystem of IOT solution providers utilize these reference designs to accelerate development of solutions for manufacturers.

With Intel's Edge Insights for Industrial, companies can capture video and time series data, and then use AI to analyze the incoming data to streamline and optimize their operations. AI covers a lot of different fields, but when you think about it in the factory, on the shop floor, being able to bring machine learning and machine vision capability is key. Using AI to gather and process information off the machine, such as how the machine is operating, or about the product being manufactured, such as detecting defects on the product itself, gives you the ability to act on the information collected in real time.

Edge Controls for Industrial enables companies to transition their traditional industrial control systems to more software-defined solutions. Using software-defined solutions allows companies to run their operations through virtualized hardware solutions, take advantage of system containerization to increase system maintainability, and allow for zero-downtime updates. Companies can also manage more of their systems remotely when needed. This transition allows for greater flexibility, faster adoption of new solutions, and easier management operations.



Unlimited Application Possibilities

After companies see the positive effects in areas where they had invested in automation and digital transformation, they get excited about finding ways to do this across other factory operations. Often, they even see a benefit in extending it further into other business operations outside of the factory. They realize that they now have an infrastructure that they can deploy and use to address other issues.

For example, one manufacturer had to create an application to dispense and apply the liquid glue to a substrate. They were having challenges relative to the amount of glue that was being applied. They first used Intel's IPC platform and software to deploy a machine vision application to improve the overall quality of the glue application. Now, they have taken that platform elsewhere; they're doing quality inspections of the sub-components of the product that they're bringing in. The manufacturer is using that same foundational platform, but they've now deployed additional use cases on it.

Other manufacturers have had similar cases where they first used it for something like detecting defects in die cast metal pieces. Later they can take that same platform elsewhere in their factory to use in a different quality inspection element, or even to create a safety keep-out zone. The possibilities really are limitless for manufacturers.



Moving a factory to Industry 4.0 is more important than ever. Companies can use the values gained from automation and digital transformation to improve their manufacturing processes in so many ways. They can reduce their costs through faster production with fewer defects, adjust operation based on real-time data, and improve safety by reducing or eliminating manual processes.

With Intel’s line of processor platforms, development tools and toolkits available on Intel’s Edge Software Hub, companies can develop solutions to enable factories in an ever-changing landscape. They can automate their systems, use AI and machine learning to monitor equipment, raw materials, and final products in real time, and update, maintain, and monitor their systems from anywhere.

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About the Author
Christine Boles is a Vice President in the Network & Edge Group (NEX) and General Manager of Intel’s Federal and Industrial Solutions. Her organization is responsible for Intel’s NEX Federal and Industrial business within the aerospace, manufacturing, energy, logistics and commercial building segments, including the product and ecosystem strategies for this rapidly evolving space. Boles joined Intel in 1992 as an application engineer for 16-bit microcontrollers. For almost 30 years, she has led development, delivery and the enabling of customers and ecosystems for Intel based solutions in multiple leadership roles. These solutions span a broad range of embedded and internet of things applications across many industries, including communications, storage, retail, imaging, and commercial buildings. Boles holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from University of Cincinnati and an MBA from Arizona State University.