Smart Factories of the Future Are Here Today

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By connecting control systems, from industrial gateways, to edge servers, and subsequently to enterprise infrastructure, automation companies hope to gain operational insights that will yield efficiency and productivity. For example, the Siemens AG factory in Amberg, Germany, where the company manufactures programmable logic controllers (PLCs), has undergone this digital transformation to enable use cases ranging from AI-enabled quality inspection to predictive maintenance. Historically, automation systems at the Amberg facility have operated as independent, isolated units without a network connection to each of the other systems in a physical cluster or the broader factory network. As a result, the machine data required to perform functions like predictive maintenance remained trapped within silos on individual devices, and could not be exposed to higher-order analytics systems that perform machine learning tasks. To facilitate advanced Industry 4.0 use cases, the factory needed an architectural redesign that implemented networking and compute infrastructure at the edge without uprooting existing automation endpoints.

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