Cloud computing and storage solutions are integral to improvements in efficiency savings and operating prowess of industrial plants as the manufacturing world gears up for 'Industry 4.0', according to Vimal Kapur, president of Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS), the multinational conglomerate's automation control solutions division.
Speaking to IBTimes UK on Wednesday (27 September) at the HPS Users' Group conference in The Hague, Netherlands, Kapur said: "We've reached a point where adopting the cloud is not a choice, it's a given as we move toward Industry 4.0; the world's preferred name for the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies."
It includes cyber-physical systems, the Industrial Internet of things (IIoT), cloud computing and cognitive computing.
HPS' commercial answer is what it describes as the 'connected plant', the company's programme that helps manufacturers operate their plants "more safely, efficiently and reliably" by leveraging the power of the IIoT.
"Underpinning our solutions is the cloud, which for all its machinations in the popular press, is an infrastructural avenue that creates value as an application in the new industrial processing world; a world that is pushing everyone towards centralisation.
"Modern industry is moving towards a lean front-end model, and a much more heavily centralised back-end capability. This has boosted productivity as all the knowledge capture, maintenance, and high level analysis can be centralised."
However, Kapur added that the innovative operating model and process efficiencies the cloud is enabling are not being discussed that often. "What is being discussed is not the end but rather the means."
For instance, the cloud-based supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) for industrial processing solutions that Honeywell and its rivals offer, is worlds ahead of the clunky analogue control systems that were once the mainstay of plants as recently as the 1990s.
"The operating expenditure, productivity, and ease of upgrading, patching and migrating benefits are so large that manufacturers cannot afford to ignore it. Control systems have shifted from a hardware-centric platform to a more software-oriented one since the turn of the millennium. As a solutions provider Honeywell has adapted its offer and is central to this progress."
More so, Kapur said the parent Honeywell Corporation which operates over 350 plants of its own, often serves as the testing ground for solutions HPS pitches to the wider world. "We practice what we preach, and ground test on our own before taking it to the wider world. This approach extends beyond a research and development lab test."
The HPS president also said that such was the pace of change and opportunities offered by rapid digitisation that the company is launching new products every quarter.
"The new technology inflection has seen us adopting them into our current offerings. The world of connected; of digital transformation; and of virtual reality, gives us better ways to solve problems and industrial processes for our end-customers and make a clear impact on their bottomline from control systems to maintenance training stimulators, mission critical apparatus to health and safety.
"The cloud is encompassing much of it, and we are having to innovate quite aggressively with an outcome based approach, instead of a plain vanilla solutions based approach. That's what Industry 4.0 means for HPS."