Cloud-based technology offers end users in the manufacturing and processing industries a plethora of benefits, such as continuous access to the latest version of the software to less need of in-house IT support. Perhaps most importantly, it enables a “single source of truth” for large datasets gathered from disparate systems and facilities. By synchronizing this data, cloud platforms can enable end-to-end planning and visibility that would be difficult or impossible if local, on-premises servers were used instead.
Moreover, the cloud is increasingly seen as a key factor in helping companies meet sustainability goals. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, data centers now account for 1.5% of all electricity consumption in the U.S., which has a sizeable impact on overall carbon emissions. By eliminating local servers, this electricity usage can be slashed. On top of that, because cloud platforms can ingest large quantities of data from many locations and companies, they can be used to train powerful machine learning applications capable of optimizing production and reducing overall energy consumption.
One such example is Zedi Cloud SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition), Emerson’s software-as-a-service control platform. Recently, Zedi Cloud moved to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, which Emerson says will allow end users to more easily scale their operations, achieve environmental, social, and governance goals, and safeguard critical business assets.
Often, balancing cost reduction targets with sustainability goals can be challenging. To address this, Zedi Cloud uses machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence to build predictive models that can help companies move toward industrial autonomy, as opposed to mere automation. Whereas industrial automation typically refers to machines with the ability to perform highly-structured, pre-programmed tasks in lieu of human labor, the term industrial autonomy describes systems that are capable of adapting independently to diverse challenges with minimal human intervention. This can significantly cut costs while reducing energy consumption.
“The move to Microsoft Azure provides the best scalability and enterprise-level functionality of all available cloud platforms,” said Nathan Pettus, president of Emerson’s process systems and software business. “Users can add or remove assets as needed to manage traffic spikes, which is particularly useful as organizations acquire other businesses and need to scale rapidly to accommodate new assets and bring them online quickly. Azure also provides greater hybrid cloud flexibility to enable users to work remotely while maximizing existing on-premises assets for a faster path to safe and effective autonomous operations.”
In addition, the Zedi Cloud SCADA platform helps personnel manage cloud analytics in numerous formats, easing the remote monitoring of assets, and improving operational performance in rugged, dangerous, or distant locations, Emerson says.