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Edge and Manufacturing: What’s Next?

Edge computing is still emerging in manufacturing—but where are we right now, as I write this, and where are we headed? A new report looks to answer these very questions, explaining how edge computing is changing manufacturing to solve operational issues and reduce costs. Now that’s the tricky part when you consider manufacturing is changing faster than we can even say smart manufacturing.

AT&T recently released its 2023 AT&T Cybersecurity Insights Report: Focus on Manufacturing. One of the key takeaways reveals that there are critical elements needed to deliver both secure and effective edge solutions. After covering this space for more than two decades, I suspect most manufacturing leaders recognize the important elements are key, especially in a dynamic manufacturing environment.

The Drivers for Edge Use Cases

At its core, edge computing provides the opportunity to bring together stakeholders and to align their interests to drive integrated business outcomes, according to AT&T. We see the role of IT has shifted to being a more collaborative partner in delivering innovative edge-computing solutions. Further, leaders in manufacturing are budgeting different for edge use cases.

Today we see a number of trends driving greater investments in edge computing including the need for efficiency and speed, the rising cost of labor, and customer expectations for next-day or same-day deliveries.

As manufacturing companies move toward their edge ecosystem, there are three key initiatives many are embracing including: proactive investing that take into consideration the dynamic nature of manufacturing, cross-functional collaboration, and cyber resilience.

The Top Use Cases

The primary use case for edge in manufacturing highlighted in 2023 is smart warehousing, the report reveals. Here computing resources can be deployed close or on the warehouse floor, enhancing productivity, improving logistics, and better optimizing warehouse space. The report suggests 61% of respondents are in the implementation stage.

In the 2022 report, AT&T highlighted video-based quality inspection as the primary manufacturing edge computing use case. Other top use cases in the 2023 report include augmented reality maintenance, inventory intelligence, asset instrumentation and monitoring, and transportation optimization, just to name a few.

What Comes Next

With all this in mind, what comes next for the manufacturing industry? The report looks at the best practices and recommendations from others in the space to secure current and future use cases. First, companies should develop an edge computing profile and an investment strategy. What do I always say? With any new technology implementation, it must always start with a good strategy. The report also suggests increasing your compliance capabilities, aligning resources with emerging priorities, building in resilience, and preparing for dynamic response.

All in all, edge computing is coming to manufacturing. Now it is a matter of the next step manufacturers take on this journey to transformation. This is no longer a question of sitting on the sidelines. We are seeing big shifts in manufacturing to smart manufacturing and Industry 4.0 and so much more. The question now is where is your manufacturing environment headed on the journey to be faster, quicker, and more responsive to an ever-demanding customer experience environment?

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