Building Industrial IoT applications with the Microsoft Cloud
Published Jul 26 2022 09:00 AM 8,660 Views



Here is your starting point to learn how the Microsoft Cloud for manufacturing and underlying Industrial IoT platform can help manufacturers implement secure and pervasive IIoT solutions.

Manufacturers are pressured to innovate and digitally transform to keep up with the rapid pace of their markets, competition, supply chain pressures, worker shortage and productivity requirements. For that they need to leverage IoT that makes all this possible at scale. But to do this, manufacturers need to learn an all-new set of skills and technologies to best leverage this promise.

We put together a comprehensive series of short videos walking through the shared challenges manufacturers are facing and how the Microsoft Cloud for manufacturing, powered by Azure and its IoT services, can help them transition into this new era of digitalization.


Digital transformation Challenges in manufacturing


Many customers we work with share similar technical challenges when digitally transforming their businesses.

They need to connect existing (sometimes aging) infrastructures and assets in a secure way across locations, through secured layered networks. As they reconcile IT and OT, they need a unified control plane for both their OT assets and their IT infrastructure that will guarantee security.

The heterogeneous nature of their IT/OT systems presents unique challenges as they try to synergize IoT insights with incumbent IT and OT data, reconciling these data silos for analytics, automating workflows and processes and build supply chain resiliency.

They also need to empower their frontline workforce through operations modernization and automation.


Introducing our fictitious customer: Parnell Aerospace


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In order to better highlight the Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing value, we created a fictitious customer based on our experiences with thousands of manufacturing customer engagements. With Parnell Aerospace, we are depicting a fictitious amalgam of attributes from real world customers in order to optimize the flow of our demonstration to the most typical scenarios.

Parnell Aerospace produces parts for the aerospace industry with factories across the US and customers across the world. They are facing the typical business scale growing pains as their market opportunity expands, and they need to meet that challenge by modernizing existing plants while paving the runway for current year and future expanded operations globally.

In this first part in the series, we look at the common challenges faced by manufacturers like Parnell Aerospace and what their business goals are when implementing IIoT.



Microsoft Cloud for manufacturing and the Industrial IoT platform


Microsoft Cloud mission is to empower every organization and we recognize that industries have specific needs that need to be addressed. We created Industry Clouds to have the right focus on these industry specifics, and to ensure that Microsoft has an end-to-end prescription for how customers in those industries can achieve business outcomes.

In this second part in the series we take a look at the Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing, what it can help customers with and what services are available for them to unlock innovation.



Operational and Asset visibility


One of the first business goals manufacturers usually try to achieve when implementing Industrial IoT, is to improve visibility across connected factory assets and processes, in order to improve efficiency of equipment and productivity of labor across sites.

I this third part of our series we look at how developers, architects, process engineers can deliver such operational and asset visibility to line workers, operations and regional managers, supervisors.



Product quality and customer service


Besides gaining better visibility into operations and assets efficiency, Industrial IoT allows to extract insights to better product quality and customer service. With the right services and tools as well as power of the Cloud, it becomes possible to more rapidly and efficiently identify product defects causes, track an issue reported by a customer all the way down to the moment and location a faulty product was produced.

In this fourth part of the series, we are looking at that very scenario as Parnell Aerospace makes the most of the integration of their CRM data with their operations data.



When OT data meets 3D visualization and new ways of interaction with assets and their data


There are many ways to visualize and interact with data and in manufacturing, the complexity of the machines sometimes makes displaying data to different types of users a real challenge. 3D visualization of data collected from assets and analyzed in real time along the insights extracted from this analytics allows for new levels of efficiency, safety and productivity. In part 5 of the series we showcase a new tool allowing to rapidly create 3D visualization of assets and their data’s digital twins.



IIoT Integration with business applications


One of the most important value of leveraging the Cloud is to allow for a deeper integration between OT and IT systems and applications. It is great to be able to detect an anomaly on some equipment rapidly but it is even better if you can streamline the fixing of the detected issue by automatically creating a ticket and schedule the right maintenance engineer at the right moment for a repair or preventive maintenance. That’s what the integration of IIoT with Dynamics 365 Connected Field Services allows. Part 6 is a demo of exactly that.



Production operations and maintenance


Empowering frontline workers is paramount to manufacturing success. Allowing them to more rapidly perform routine maintenance as well as efficiently remediate production issues increases overall production efficiency and uptime. IoT solutions like Azure IoT Central offer a simple, yet powerful and customizable interface to interact with assets. Frontline workers and managers can easily set rules to trigger workflows based on the specificities of their environment and background. IIoT also allows to enhance safety for repair technicians while giving them the communication tools to instantly get remote assistance. In the seventh part of our series, we demo how simple it is to create rules in Azure IoT Central that trigger a maintenance workflow. Then we illustrate how remote assist using augmented reality can empower frontline workers.



Automation with Edge intelligence to improve safety and sustainability


Connecting industrial assets to the Cloud does not imply that all analytics has to happen in the said Cloud. Edge technologies allow to create and train models in the Cloud, leveraging the vast amounts of data and resources made available, to then deploy and run these models as close as possible to the assets that need to be monitored, controlled or automated. To illustrate this, we look at how Parnell Aerospace decides to address one of the most common defects in industrial manufacturing: weld defects. They have identified that many of their product quality complaints came from weld defects. In the eighth part of the series, we show how Parnell Aerospace uses Vision AI to minimize weld defects.



The IoT Well-Architectured framework


There are a lot of different and complementary services composing the Microsoft Industrial IoT platform and depending on the scenario and the context they can be integrated in different ways. We put together a series of Well-Architectured frameworks for developers and architects willing to build their applications on Azure. In this short part 9 we introduce the IoT Well-Architectured framework.



Asset connectivity at scale


After looking at the business outcomes pursued and how Parnell Aerospace can achieve them using the Microsoft IIoT platform, we wanted to focus on how they can do this at scale, implementing a secure and reliable infrastructure for factories across the world with a wide collection of heterogeneous assets. It all starts with connecting all those assets (existing and new) in a secure way with as little disruption as possible and taking into account the specificities of industrial assets (long life cycles, retrofitting of older but still in use equipment).

In part 10 of the series we demo how Microsoft and its partners offer solutions that simplify this integration of devices at scale, with large number of devices, across many locations while ensuring data security and privacy.



Securing IIoT solutions at scale


You cannot have a series about IoT without addressing the security aspects. Manufacturing, by nature and by design, requires an isolation of the OT infrastructure from the Internet as well as from the IT infrastructure itself. That’s why Purdue model networks were created and that’s why manufacturers.

From traversing layered networks, to leveraging virtual networks or offering a single pane of glass to monitor security of both an IT and OT infrastructure, the Microsoft IIoT platform provides tools that allow customers to digitally transform securely. Part 11 of the series demos some of these tools and technologies.



Deployment and management in today and tomorrow’s world of hybrid environments and Clouds


As we are paving the way to a simpler and even more empowering digital transformation, we are embracing the hybrid nature of the Edge and the Cloud. In order to allow manufacturers to have higher levels of governance and transparency, centralize IT and OT management and maintain infrastructure and data services secure and up to date, we integrate the Industrial IoT platform with the modern developer and IT tools. In this last part of our series, we discuss how manufacturers can scale and streamline the deployment and management of their solutions across hybrid Edge and Clouds with Azure Arc and GitOps.





We hope you enjoyed the series and found valuable information about the Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing and Industrial IoT platform. To further learn about the IoT services, I recommend starting with the IoT Well-Architected Framework mentioned in the part 9 of the series.

As always, feel free to share your thoughts and ask your questions in the comments!

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