The fourth industrial revolution is at full speed and SD-WAN is spurring it on

The fourth industrial revolution is changing the way manufacturers operate. Industry 4.0 calls for the use of artificial intelligence, machine learning, automation, and robotics to reduce lead times and increase production yield. Machine-to-machine (M2M) communication and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices are introduced in factories to upgrade legacy machines that are not designed for internet connectivity. It goes without saying that real time updates and migration to cloud-based software are becoming standard practices in the manufacturing industry. 

As manufacturers transform themselves to adapt to these market changes, their bandwidth needs increase. Manufacturers must find cost-effective ways to provision new communication lines and simplify the management of their increasingly complex network architecture. 

Enter SD-WAN into the picture. 

SD-WAN, or software-defined wide area network, is a virtual wide area network (WAN). It has a centralized control system and single pane of glass UI that simplify the management of the WAN. SD-WAN is a cost-effective solution that allows the integration of different types of network connection, be it MPLS, broadband, or 5G, to build and connect its network. 

SD-WAN sits on top of existing networks and is able to provide the functions of OSI layers 2 to 7. Using application identification and outlined policies, SD-WAN steers traffic intelligently to meet quality of service levels. Besides that, SD-WAN provides network visibility, allowing the monitoring of network throughput, packet loss, latency, and jitter. 

SD-WAN is similar to SDN, or software defined network, except SDN solutions are usually applied on internal networks, such as Local Area Network (LAN), while SD-WAN is focused on connecting several networks and applied on the more geographically dispersed Wide Area Network (WAN). 

How does SD-WAN help revolutionize the manufacturing industry? Let’s find out.

SD-WAN dramatically reduces manufacturer’s capital and operational expenditures in two ways. First, SD-WAN utilizes existing network connections to build its mesh network. IIoT devices and cloud applications require stable and constant connectivity to the network, increasing bandwidth needs of the manufacturer. Provisioning new MPLS lines to increase bandwidth is cost prohibitive and time consuming. Existing network connections such as broadband and 5G connections are easily accessible, affordable, and ultimately serve the same function as brand new connections. 

Secondly, SD-WAN reduces IT operational costs by simplifying network management. Its single pane of glass UI provides the IT team with a comprehensive overview of the manufacturer’s mesh network as well as a centralized control system, allowing easy management of the network. The IT personnel does not need to navigate multiple different interfaces for every single network connection the manufacturer has to address network issues. In fact, they are able to proactively look for and address potential network issues before end users are even aware of it.

The fourth industrial revolution pushes manufacturing enterprises to improve connectivity and interconnectivity between multiple manufacturing locations. Since SD-WAN is able to integrate various network types to build its WAN, manufacturers have plenty of connection options to linkup factories, branch offices, headquarters, remote warehouses, SaaS applications, cloud servers, and ERP systems. Besides that, manufacturers can further improve connectivity through the construction of redundant networks with the abundance of affordable connection options, securing maximum network uptime.

The term smart factory and intelligent manufacturing came from introducing AI, ML, automation, and robotics into the manufacturing process. Using intelligent technologies, smart factories collect and analyse copious amounts of data to optimize its production yield. Machine performance is fine tuned for maximum efficiency and maintenance is scheduled using predictive analysis to reduce downtime. This effectively streamlines the manufacturing process and maximizes factory output.

However, legacy manufacturing machines are not designed to house these new smart technologies. Smart technologies require constant internet connectivity to operate optimally, and conventional factory machines do not have such capabilities. Ordinary production machines simply do not collect data or use predictive analysis. It is the invention of IIoT devices that made it possible to upgrade existing manufacturing machines into intelligent machines, transforming regular factories into smart factories. 

As such, remote manufacturing locations now require seamless network connectivity to function as smart factories. Without good internet connection, IIoT devices are unable to operate as intended, rendering smart factories into regular old factories. SD-WAN can guarantee manufacturers with stable and secure connections to provide functionality to their IIoT devices, thus securing their status as smart manufacturers.

The heightened number of connections between manufacturing locations coupled with the rise in number of connections within a factory location present plenty of network points for malicious individuals to hack, sabotage, or steal data. It is in the manufacturer’s best of interest to keep these connection points secure and protected from all threats. This can be done by using firewalls, data encryption, or network segmentation. Regardless of the type of security manufacturers decide to implement, SD-WAN allows the addition of new security features to ensure maximum network protection.

SD-WAN is a simple solution that solves the sophisticated multi-network, multi-point connectivity problem. It utilizes existing network architecture to reduce cost and improve connectivity. Its decoupled control system enables remote and simple network management and monitoring. Its application aware and load balancing abilities allow it to enhance software performance and streamline data communication. Its allowance for interoperability of different software and security systems simplifies network management and monitoring. There is little to dislike when it comes to SD-WAN as a solution as it provides so many features that enhances an organization’s revenue generating activities and reduces both capital and operational expenditures.

Contact us now for a free SD-WAN consultation.

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