As Industry 4.0 Rises, DevOps Helps Expedite Workflowss

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Industry 4.0 is revolutionizing electronics manufacturing, optimizing all aspects of the process from production to maintenance. As Industry 4.0 continues to grow, so, too, does the complexity of the practice. To meet the rapidly changing demands of Industry 4.0, electronics manufacturers can apply DevOps practices—in which development and operations teams work jointly—and adopt platform engineering to build and deploy resilient, secure software and systems.

Hope Lynch, senior director, platform at CloudBees

Some experts have said that the market size for Industry 4.0 will reach over $377 billion by 2029. Despite continued growth, Industry 4.0 complexity presents a shift for electronics manufacturers that can, without the right tools and processes, slow production and create longer timelines. Taking on software updates and security fixes can get electronics manufacturing stuck in a waterfall process, whereby tasks are handled one by one before a simultaneous release. By applying DevOps, manufacturers can modernize their delivery and position themselves to capitalize on the wave of growth in Industry 4.0.

Product updates can cause equipment breakdowns if they aren’t implemented properly, and DevOps enables teams to manage production by enabling hardware teams to push updates in a similar fashion as the software team publishes them. Hardware and software teams operate at different speeds, and DevOps can create a more agile, continuous lifecycle between the teams. Manufacturers must prioritize efficient resource utilization and resilient software design; software should be able to gracefully manage hardware failures without causing a complete system shutdown or loss of data. In the case of failures, techniques like graceful degradation, redundancy and automatic failover can be useful.

When executed successfully, the application of DevOps practices enables manufacturers to synchronize hardware and software teams by creating a positive culture around quick feedback loops, team empowerment, collaboration and more. DevOps prevents teams from getting out of sync, which results in a smoother workflow and cross-team collaboration that enables continuous integration and improvements to be made as needed.

The next step: platform engineering

In addition to DevOps, implementing a platform-engineering approach for the development environment also makes developers more productive. Platform engineering is the discipline of designing, building and maintaining the infrastructure and tools that software engineers need to build and deploy applications. Platform engineering takes the friction of maintaining the environment away from developers.

Teams of software developers often work months ahead of hardware and other manufacturing teams. With the combination of DevOps practices and platform engineering also applied to firmware teams, the teams can synchronize and come together at the right points of the development lifecycle to speed up time to market.

The benefits of platform engineering are twofold:

  • Developers benefit from being treated as an internal customer to get the most out of their tools. A platform-engineering approach removes the burden of patching, updating and maintaining tools and shifts responsibility for this to the platform-engineering team.
  • Manufacturers have a more streamlined and integrated process for bringing new fixes and features to users and can track and repair issues faster.

To implement platform engineering successfully, manufacturers must take the time to develop tools and workflows, just as if they were developing a new product. Treating internal teams as customers of platform engineering, developing streamlined processes for feedback, roadmaps and allowing developers to optimize their workflow has an outsized positive impact on developer experience. In applying the same care to DevOps that they do to product development, manufacturers can streamline production, make developer teams run more smoothly and set the stage for continuous delivery.

Bolstering resilience, security

Resiliency is at the core of DevOps principles. Resiliency enables fast recovery and quick issue-response times, which is especially critical for security vulnerabilities. DevOps makes quick, agile responses against the next challenge possible. An example of this ability to quickly respond to issues is evident when thinking about construction equipment.

Decades ago, construction-equipment repairs required on-site maintenance or a pause in production. The maintenance process has since evolved, and equipment can now often be fixed with over-the-air updates. Using DevOps practices to coordinate firmware and software teams, these updates can be developed faster and delivered more efficiently. Instead of waiting months for a fix, software teams working with firmware can use agile practices like sprints and standups used by DevOps teams to quickly prioritize and fix issues and deliver them to customers where they are.

Along with resiliency, security is a moving target, and continuous security is key to staying flexible and adaptable, even when issues arise. Within Industry 4.0, the adoption of DevOps is accelerating product security for manufacturers at an unprecedented rate, thereby transforming customer expectations.

Customers are pressuring manufacturers to provide quick improvements and fixes, especially in the case of a security breach. By using DevOps and platform engineering, teams can streamline security fixes and enable continuous delivery of new enhancements throughout the development process to meet customer expectations and reduce vulnerabilities.

The demands of Industry 4.0 are ever-changing and evolving. As it revolutionizes electronics manufacturing, DevOps and platform engineering are critical to shortening the product lifecycle and enabling both resiliency and security. With an understanding of DevOps and platform-engineering implementation, electronics manufacturers can benefit from Industry 4.0 and can continuously improve product delivery.