Google Cloud Platform (GCP) is set to release two new solutions targeted at the manufacturing sector and aiming to ease data engineering and analytics tasks, unifying data from diverse machine assets to offer business insights to factory managers.
GCP’s new offerings come at a time when enterprises in the manufacturing sector are adopting systems to meet the challenge of volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (also known as VUCA) conditions arising from global phenomena including the pandemic and the “Great Resignation”.
Nearly two-thirds of manufacturers globally already use cloud solutions, according to consulting firm McKinsey, and marketing intelligence company ReportLinker reports that the global smart factory market — consisting of companies using technology such as Internet of Things (IoT) — is expected to reach US$214.2 billion by 2026.
But enterprises that are planning digital transformation of their factories or are in some stage of emerging tech implementation face big challenges, Google says.
“We believe the scalability challenges revolve around two factors — the lack of access to contextualised operational data and the skills gap to use complex data science and AI tools on the factory floor,” Charlie Sheridan, technology director of global manufacturing at Google Cloud, wrote in a blog post.
In order to help with organising data and make sense of it for use in business operations, GCP has announced the Manufacturing Data Engine.
Edge-cloud connection helps data extraction
The Manufacturing Data Engine is designed to let enterprises extract data — including telemetry and image data — via a private, secure, and low cost connection between edge and cloud, Sheridan said. The engine comes with built-in data normalisation and context-enrichment capabilities, providing a common data model, with a factory-optimised data lake-house for storage, he added.
Most enterprises, however, use various kinds of machine assets, often referred to as operational technology (OT), to garner data. In order to solve the challenge of gathering disparate kinds of data from these assets, GCP has launched the Manufacturing Connect tool.
Developed in partnership with industrial edge data platform provider Litmus Automation, the Manufacturing Connect tool is designed to connect to any OT asset, with a backend library that consists of over 250 machine protocols.
“Manufacturing Connect translates machine data into a digestible dataset and sends it to the Manufacturing Data Engine for processing, contextualisation and storage. By supporting containerised workloads, it allows manufacturers to run low-latency data visualisation, analytics and ML [machine learning] capabilities directly on the edge,” Sheridan said.
Manufacturing apps integrate with other Google offerings
Enterprises can also use the Manufacturing Data Engine in combination with other GCP products to generate more insights, do predictive maintenance, and detect machine-level anomalies.
The Manufacturing Data Engine comes with a ready-to-use integration with templates from Google’s no-code Looker BI platform, designed to allow manufacturing engineers and plant managers to quickly create and modify custom dashboards, add new machines, setups, and factories.
In order to perform predictive maintenance, enterprises can deploy prebuilt machine learning models and refine them with the help of Google Cloud engineers.
To help manufacturing teams discover machine-level anomalies, the company has built an integration underpinning GCP’s Time Series Insights API on real-time machine and sensor data that identifies unwarranted changes and provides alerts.
Google faces rival industry-specific solutions
Google Cloud’s manufacturing solutions will compete with offerings from the stables of AWS, Microsoft Azure, Oracle and IBM, which offer similar solutions bundled with more horizontal capabilities, said Holger Mueller, principal analyst at Constellation Research.
Google had started the trend of launching industry-focused solutions back in 2019 when Thomans Kurian was at the helm, Mueller said, adding that these kind of industry solutions help CIOs unlock the true potential of their cloud investment by helping to ensure a faster time-to-market strategy.
Some of Google Cloud’s partners for manufacturing solutions include Intel, Splunk, Quantiphi, Cognizant, Litmus Automation, Sotec, GFT and Softserve.
The company has not given any indication about the general availability of these solutions but is expected to showcase them at the end of this month.