A Global Manufacturer’s Digital Transformation from On-Premises IoT to the AWS Cloud
By Jason Koirala, Munish Singh, and Rodney Boswell – Innova Solutions
By Arvind Ramachandra, Sr. Vice President of Technology & Cloud Services – Innova Solutions
By Shaun Wang, Sr. Partner Solutions Architect – AWS
Today’s fusion of technologies, ranging from the physical and digital to biological spheres, marks the fourth distinct era of industrial development since the 18th century.
The digital transformation growth rate in the manufacturing sector accelerated rapidly during the pandemic, placing an enhanced focus on achieving self-management, efficiency, and productivity. This growth has enabled manufacturers to attain flexible, customer-centric production while reducing operation and maintenance costs within the industry.
When manufacturing clients migrate from on-premises solutions to cloud platforms as part of their digital transformation, the journey often starts with an application lift-and-shift. This requires the deployment of software with little or no modification, and for many organizations it can serve as the first step in an eventual move towards a cloud-native solution.
As a leading global information technology, consulting, and business solutions organization, Innova Solutions has been a trusted partner to mid-market and enterprise clients around the world in their digital transformation journey for over two decades.
Innova Solutions’ industry-based domain expertise and passion for innovation, combined with the power of technologies in cognitive sciences, cloud computing, data sciences, product engineering, robotic process automation, machine learning, and blockchain, have helped clients envision, build, and run their businesses more efficiently.
Innova Solutions is an AWS Advanced Tier Services Partner and participant in the APN Immersion Days, Public Sector, and Managed Services Provider (MSP) programs.
In this post, we will discuss Innova’s partnership with one of the leading global fastener manufacturers in their transition from on-premises to Amazon Web Services (AWS) and how it resulted in a shift towards a cloud platform, reduced machine downtime, and improved operational efficiencies at the global level.
Developing Industry 4.0 Strategy
To begin, Innova worked with the client to review their existing Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) solutions and recommended they replace their on-premises technology with a scalable, modernized solution. The proposed IIoT solution can be leveraged across different AWS regions and makes on-demand data accessible from anywhere in the world.
With plans to expand their portfolio of fastener products, the client decided to deploy a multi-year “Industry 4.0” strategy (a nod to the fourth industrial era) with Innova Solutions to digitize their manufacturing plants around the globe. The partnership focused on developing modern industrial solutions using IoT, cloud, and other emerging technologies to gain real-time insight from each plant’s machines and create smart production facilities.
Initially, the company had around 50 programmable logic controllers (PLCs) in use at one of the target facilities and required a new system for communication between them.
During the discovery phase, Innova worked with the client to develop an IIoT strategy that included all of their manufacturing operations worldwide. While one of the manufacturing plants had started implementing an IoT solution and was collecting data, it faced significant challenges in scaling up the solution.
The manufacturer was using an on-premises solution to improve plant operational efficiency, which posed risks and necessitated the movement of data from on-premises to cloud, without a standard architecture for the deployment of the IIoT technologies.
The manufacturer would need substantial support from different technologies; the risk to deploy, operate, and support IIoT initiatives would have increased with a deployment failure, resulting in a loss of global-level, near real-time view of its manufacturing metrics.
Thus, the manufacturer needed a well-defined enterprise-wide standard architecture for the implementation of the Industry 4.0 strategy. Innova Solutions was engaged to review the existing IIoT solution that leveraged old on-premises technologies and devise a new plan to utilize IIoT at a global enterprise-wide level.
Figure 1 – Proposed Industry 4.0 architecture.
The key components involved in the initial design of the solution were:
- Data normalization at the edge
- Long-term storage
Implementing the Solution
Before executing the solution, Innova identified three major focus areas:
- Transferring the existing on-premises IoT solutions to the AWS Cloud and providing information on the status of machines with operational equipment efficiency (OEE) performance metrics in real time.
- Collaborating on innovation with the Center of Excellence on Processes (COEP) to develop a new framework from the initial IoT implementation on AWS.
- Developing a planning guide/playbook covering the automation scripts to help the COEP readily deploy new instances of the IoT environment for other locations.
In the initial stage, the focus was on retiring the on-premises solution and identifying the right IoT gateway software to communicate with several types of installed PLCs. From KEPware, KEPServerEx was identified as the IoT gateway to communicate between machines and AWS.
In the AWS IoT Core service, Innova first set up a device in Things, under the Manage heading. It also utilized a device data endpoint (REST API endpoint in the Settings section).
In the edge server, Innova has Mosquitto broker and Node-RED services running inside the Docker container. The data collected from multiple vendor’s PLCs are sent to the KEPServerEx, which unifies all of the collected industrial automation data to a single source. KEPServerEx is configured to transmit data to the Mosquitto broker.
The Node-RED service running on the Docker container is configured to listen to the Mosquitto broker at port 1883. At this point, users should get the incoming message from KEPServerEx. They can also configure Node-RED to perform raw-data transformation and forward the message to AWS IoT Core endpoint by specifying the message topic. With the help of the right certificates and keys, a secured connection can be established with AWS IoT Core.
The edge gateway software routes the data from the tagged PLCs to AWS IoT Core. Innova uses rules in the AWS IoT service to query the message and forward it to Amazon Kinesis each time the rule is triggered. Innova has approximately 24 hours of retention setup in Amazon Kinesis, and Kinesis Data Firehose will output the contents to an Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) bucket.
For visualization, the stored data in the S3 bucket is then queried by Amazon Athena, which provides the method for Grafana to provide interactive visualization about the near real-time machine status and thus fulfilling the OEE metrics requirement.
The deployment of Industrial IoT will provide executive leadership and plant operators invaluable near real-time manufacturing plant floor visibility. In case of disaster or network loss, Innova will use local historians as a cache. A local historian stores data in local storage (hard drive), helping reduce the risk of data loss in the cloud since the backup can be retrieved.
The COEP has adopted the installed framework as a model to leverage for their other manufacturing plants.
Modernization of the manufacturing industry began with the introduction of machinery and continued with the use of PLCs and manufacturing execution systems (MES). Today, the industry is striving to become more resilient by investing in digital transformation efforts such as cloud computing that allow fulfilment of customer demand on a near real-time basis.
To achieve these objectives, manufacturing companies are shifting from on-premises IT infrastructure towards a cloud-based system. This helps minimize the significant human and capital infrastructure costs while facilitating remote monitoring, data modernization, and advanced analytics.
By partnering with Innova Solutions to develop and implement a customized digital transformation strategy, this manufacturing client has increased its resilience and agility. The transition to AWS has reduced machine downtime, improved plant efficiencies at the global level, and lowered overall IT expenses.
Innova Solutions – AWS Partner Spotlight
Innova Solutions is an AWS Advanced Tier Services Partner and MSP. A global technology services provider, Innova offers support for cloud transformation, migration, managed services, data and analytics, AI/ML, IoT/edge, and more.