“Fog computing”: Hybrid MES guarantees stable and secure production even with cloud operation

Hybrid MES guarantees stable and safe production

Experts agree: “Fog computing” paves the way to the vision of “cloud computing” and its software-as-a-service concept for the store floor. PROXIA Software AG has already geared its MES-Software portfolio towards the future.

The fog around “cloud computing” is clearing. While cloud computing is set as a strategic IT goal in almost every major manufacturing company, it is often unclear how a corresponding software-as-a-service concept can actually be achieved in practice via business cases. As a first practicable step, PROXIA Software AG from Ebersberg near Munich has now encapsulated its MES functions with a so-called “Fog Computing Layer” in order to divide the path to “Cloud Computing” into economically attractive stages.

The term “fog computing”, also known as “local cloud”, is derived from the term “fog” and refers to a network structure (“fog layer”) in which data generated by edge devices is not loaded directly into the cloud for processing, but is first preprocessed in a decentralized manner. In this way, the data streams, for example from the PLC controls of the machining centers, are analyzed on site in a resource-saving manner and only relevant data extracts are sent to the cloud. By way of background: Often the bandwidth is not available or the connection is interrupted for a short time, so that it is not possible to send large volumes of data to an external data center (“cloud”) in a process-safe manner. A “Fog Layer” however, as used in PROXIA’s current solution, prevents this by acting as a buffer. All PROXIA MES functions are encapsulated accordingly for this purpose.

Highest data security and low latency times

The basic idea of the “Fog Layer” is to first condense data and only then send it to the cloud. This has a number of advantages: Not only are long latency times avoided, but costs are also saved. This is because most business models around cloud computing envisage revenue models based on transactions – it is not the data processing that goes into the money, but the transfer of the data back and forth. So sending large amounts of raw, unprocessed data to the cloud is a costly proposition. In addition, the issue of data security plays a crucial role: the data must be encrypted because they are exposed to hacker attacks, especially when transferred to the cloud. The “Fog Computing” concept used by PROXIA takes this aspect into account, because the semantic description of the data, the so-called metadata (descriptive structural information of the raw data), is located in the so-called “Fog Layer” in PROXIA MES and thus separated from the raw data. This separation serves the important data security requirements of manufacturing companies. The metadata that is particularly coveted by computer criminals is stored in a specially protected location at PROXIA MES and is therefore protected from unauthorized access from the outside.

Fog computing as a future-proof basis for the cloud

According to Marcus Niebecker, Product Manager at PROXIA, the path to software-as-a-service in the sense of cloud computing is clearly marked out: “In the first step, the compressed data must be transferred to the cloud before applications such as analysis tools get to work in the cloud. It makes no sense to create cloud applications that make use of local data; that would be far too costly. On the other hand, the cloud can show its strength precisely when evaluated data needs to be accessed from different locations. With the Fog Layer concept, we lead our application companies step by step and with a focus on data security into the cloud MES world.” PROXIA MES is already designed for the future as a hybrid Manufacturing Execution System, with on-premise, fog computing and cloud computing components. As the system architecture evolves, component after component will be decoupled from the on-premise architecture and made available as SaaS. Users can thus be sure that PROXIA Software is also the system provider of choice when it comes to a future-proof cloud strategy.

6σ philosophy completely digitized

6σ aims to reduce quality errors within defined specification limits of very few events per 1 million possibilities. In contrast to other quality improvement methods, the focus is on information-driven improvement, which is expressed in the so-called DMAIC cycle: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control. For this purpose, application areas are defined, corresponding data is collected (“measured”), causes of problems are analyzed, performance in the problem areas is improved and finally controlled. This applies to the end-to-end process as well as to subsections of it. Thus, it is clear that 6σ implementation depends heavily on the availability, collection, analysis, and application of information obtained from process data. Because of this dependence on reliable data, the MES is an important building block for a successful 6σ implementation. This makes it easy to bridge the gap between process mining and a 6σ project. Process mining helps to significantly increase and accelerate the efficiency of a 6σ-project, for example through PROXIA’s process mining tools. At this point, both classic analysis tools such as the PROXIA Timeline and the Action Manager come into play; the Timeline can be used to visualize processes. Process-accompanying parameters such as temperatures, pressures or speeds are displayed synchronously with the process. With the Measure Manager it is possible to examine the change of process parameters and key figures in relation to process changes.

PROXIA Press Contact


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