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Cronos4Industry helps the manufacturing industry analyze data

In the industrial and manufacturing world, there has been an extraordinary amount of digital innovation going on in recent years, so the need for specialized IT people is growing. Koen Rutten graduated as an electromechanical engineer, quickly went to work as an IT professional. With Cronos4Industry, he focuses on IT solutions within the industry and manufacturing sector. Why is that so important? You can read it here.

In the industrial and manufacturing sector, there are many similarities to the IT business. Yet it strikes me that we often speak a different language. In order to remove this language barrier, Cronos launched Cronos4Industry. We have made our IT section, way of working and services also accessible for the manufacturing industry.

Industrial processes contain an enormous amount of data. From the sensors in a factory to the ERP packages and everything around it. At the moment hardly anything is being done with all this data and a lot of potential remains unused, especially in terms of performance. For example, in Flanders, it is difficult to make further savings on labour costs. But as a company you could invest in knowledge, quality and efficiency. By analyzing your existing data,  you often come to new insights.

Cloud as a solution

In order to process this data, companies will have to use the public cloud. Something that many Belgian companies are still somewhat reluctant to do because they are concerned about their digital security. Microsoft Azure responds to this with its own offering for Industrial IOT. Data flows from a manufacturing environment to the cloud, but there are actually few connections in the opposite direction. This is particularly useful for processes that are sensitive to external attack.

IOT (1)

Microsoft is also working on its own datacenter in Belgium, which means that in the future all data will remain in its own country. But the Belgian datacenters also have other advantages. For example, there will be much less latency. Especially for companies that use a lot of data or critical processes, this is an advantage. Think of companies that use tablets for real-time visualizations, for which you obviously need fast connections.

Within Industry 4.0, AI sensors, the Internet of Things (IoT) and a lot of data are often used. And all of these have their added value. I'll just break it down into 3 different things:

  1. IoT: Many companies currently operate machines in their production processes that are 10 or 15 years old. These are not equipped to send data to a cloud infrastructure. Or suppose you want to add additional intelligence to those machines. Most companies do not like to intervene in the process control of those machines. This is where IoT offers a solution. Since you would like to keep this part of your manufacturing local and secure, you can choose a special offering from Microsoft and a locally built data platform. This way, you can flexibly place the wireless and high-speed network of IoT sensors and keep it local and choose if and when to let it interact with the cloud.
  2. AI: More and more companies are learning about the benefits of artificial intelligence. There are two main reasons. On the one hand, there is a great demand for pure visualization, making visible what is real-time. Before, you had to look up problems in your production process in manual logs, later the info was uploaded once a day. But that still lacks the sensor data that indicates exactly what is going wrong and how things can be improved. If this data input becomes too large, or if you want to look at predictive maintenance or quality improvement, we are already talking about smart algorithms. And that's where AI can play an important role.
  3. Cloud: If you are a company that wants to optimize your production, in many cases you will need AI and machine learning techniques. In the beginning, you need a lot of power when training your algorithms. But once you run production, you won't need it anymore. Then the cloud is a very interesting tool to use while training your algorithms. Then you can put your algorithm on the edge, or if it's more critical, run them near the machine as well. So you can start scaling very cost-effectively.

Return on investment

When you start looking at the next steps for the whole industry, the return on investment is very important to them. What your bottom line is depends on your produced asset. We always help our customers during the initial discussions to look pragmatically at their needs and vulnerabilities. With some organizations, it means we have to make a visualization of their machinery. Once you have these visualizations, you can also use the knowledge of the people on site. For example, operators who are on a certain line every day usually have a better understanding of how things should be done and what can be adjusted. We record this during our scoping process. From your vulnerabilities we then look for suitable solutions and can turn the vulnerabilities into advantages or even profits. Especially for smaller companies, such as we have in Flanders, this can solve a lot.

ROI

If we then look at the multinationals, they are often already engaged in a digital transformation. We help them convert their strategic roadmap to a technology roadmap. It is equally important for them to have a good view on the operational layer as well. In the past, you could have your enterprise architecture carried by your IT department. Nowadays, we are increasingly seeing companies merge their IT and OT departments into one big digital team in order to achieve the best solutions and optimize their processes.

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