We blogged about Big Data six years ago. Back then, pushing industrial data to the cloud in real time was a novel idea. Collecting industrial data within the plant for on-site use had been going on for decades, but few companies were integrating that data with enterprise IT or analytical systems.
Today, all that is changing. IoT and Industrie 4.0 are ideal for connecting industrial processes to Big Data. Progressive companies routinely use digital transformation to feed analytical systems to improve performance across the enterprise. Others are taking notice, trying to catch up. A recent research project by Automation World points to the growing rate of acceptance and adoption of Big Data among system integrators and end users, and how they leverage it.
Half of the system integrators in the study report that most or all of their clients collect production data to run improvement analysis. A quarter of the end-users surveyed say that they collect data from over 76% of their systems and devices.
While most of the data being collected is for in-plant improvements in equipment and maintenance operations, somewhere between 40% and 54% is also being used for Industry 4.0, smart manufacturing, or digital transformation initiatives. Pulling Big Data from the shop floor has become that important in just a few years time.
Data collection technologies
Despite the move towards Big Data, the most widely-used approaches to collecting data are still hand-written notes entered into a spreadsheet, as well as on-site data historians, according to the report. So for many users, the technology hasn’t changed significantly since the 1980s. However, cloud and edge technologies are gaining acceptance, being used at some level in about one fourth of the facilities reported on.
The survey didn’t specifically address it, but we see that some technologies originally developed for in-plant use—most notably data historians—are now widely used in edge and cloud scenarios. Some of the most well-known real-time data historians have cloud equivalents, or can be run on cloud servers. As a result, there is no clear line between traditional data collection and IoT-based systems, and there doesn’t need to be.
What is needed is secure, real-time data communication between the plant and the office or cloud. As high-quality data communication is more widely adopted, and as companies implement digital transformation in more areas, we can expect to see a huge growth in Big Data applications to optimize resource use, increase production efficiencies, and bolster the profits of the enterprise.