A recent blog from Schneider Electric considers how digitisation of production and operations bring business benefits to companies in the consumer-packaged goods industry and how it drives the need for industrial edge micro data centres to deliver the full benefits.
One benefit is traceability, which is important for companies in the food and beverage industry, pharmaceuticals and more. To meet industry regulations, they need to trace every part of their processes and those of their suppliers. For example, a milk producer must trace where the milk came from, where it was bottled, and where it’s sold. Digitisation technologies such as bar codes, sensors and RFID readers make the process workable, but produce a lot of data.
Monitoring their supply chain can also help any company respond to changing consumer needs and trends. If a supplier sees that supermarkets are increasing sales of raspberry yogurt, the producer can ramp up production to match. By the same token, CPG/FMCG companies can also use this data to detect bottlenecks in their production chain and take steps to correct them, as opposed to adding more machines to increase production. The producer can also use the same source data in a different way. By detecting production bottlenecks, they can take steps to correct them, as opposed to adding more machines to increase production.
Digitisation also helps CPG factories improve productivity and lower costs through predictive maintenance by adding smart sensors to key machines. By collecting and analysing the data engineers can identify which machine, or even which part of a machine are performing outside the established baselines. This allows the company to schedule maintenance for the machine at a time when it won’t disrupt production. This reduces routine maintenance and reduces the likelihood of the machine failing in the middle of a production run.
Achieving these potential benefits requires companies be able to handle a steady stream of real-time data, and lots of it. Sending data to the cloud for processing is not an option in these instances. This is because the latency involved will be too great, and the cost too high.
The blog considers how producers need a way to process the data close to its source, using an industrial edge data centre. Edge data centres can take many forms. They may coexist within the production machinery, be in a dedicated room, or outside the facility in an enclosed container. However, regardless of the approach, companies do face some challenges in building industrial edge data centres. One is deploying them in facilities that are not IT environments, such as a factory floor.
Edge micro data centres
Decentralised and distributed edge data centres are difficult to manage from both an IT and facilities perspective. Larger companies also need standardised edge data centre designs. These must be repeatable across hundreds or thousands of global locations. Micro data centres address each of these challenges. They come in an enclosure that includes all required IT and facilities equipment, including power, cooling and UPSs. Correct application ensures they provide the same redundancy and battery backup features of a centralised data centre.
Experience shows that an integrated ecosystem is vital in providing micro data centres that deliver on all those attributes. Micro data centres ensure efficient and reliable handling of real-time data, allowing companies to benefit from digitisation.