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Is the future of manufacturing here?

Nicolas Rousseau
22 April 2024

It’s time for unity on the factory shopfloor – and leading technology services providers, industrial automation businesses and global manufacturers have come together to make it happen.

Most manufacturing plants these days work just fine. Each stage of the production process performs its appointed task, and passes its work on to the next.

Which is as it should be, at least as far as it goes. The trouble, though, is that much of data issued by these pieces of equipment is siloed in their individual ecosystems. It means that, while traditional operational excellence practices will still deliver, there is no way to make the most of process-wide insights in real time.

Technologies can be enablers, but they come with their own additional constraints. For example, integration through data (including semantic layers) is promising, but it requires significant effort for a sometimes unclear return on investment, especially at plant level.

What’s more, budgets aren’t limitless. It can be hard to prioritize competing digital or physical investment initiatives, especially considering the accelerating impact of IT on operational technology (OT).

We believe this conflict of interests might find a solution in the effective convergence of the IT and OT worlds, enabled by real-time access to multiple data sources brought together with AI. This isn’t tech whizzery for the sake of it: it’s about developing an approach that can result in new applications, with a solid operational and financial basis leading to tangible business outcomes.

The question is how to get there. Considering all the constraints and the many state-of-the-art technologies; can everything be brought together?

Key factors

Here at Capgemini, we believe that edge computing is the current direction of travel. It’s where we believe the most effective convergence of IT and OT will happen, combining the strengths of both worlds and delivering the “real ‘real-time’” promise, at scale, and at the required pace of innovation.

We also believe that in time, NT and intelligent networks will provide an additional mobility aspect to the edge that will trigger additional value. Therefore, moving to multi-access edge computing (MEC) may be a reasonable bet.

Third, the integration or interoperability of all systems at the edge will be the key for scaling, taking solutions far beyond beyond localized initiatives in closed ecosystems.

Intelligent Edge Application Platform

As a result, we’ve developed an intelligent Edge Application Platform (IEAP), which pulls everything together in layers – infrastructure, data, and applications – and which fosters the interoperability of siloed systems, opening new business opportunities while managing the convergence of IT and OT. Available as a managed service or as a packaged client solution, it can help tackle macro manufacturing issues at plant or company level, such as risk prevention.

Needless to say, multiple data sources converge on this MEC platform, and specific edge-native AI algorithms are also designed to handle vast amounts of real-time data and make sense of it all. The approach doesn’t merely collate and organize, but presents information in insightful and actionable ways to reach tangible business outcomes.

Introducing Margo

There is a but, though, and it’s a big one. Couldn’t it be argued that the development of IEAP itself constitutes the creation of another silo – a set of practices and technologies that work well together on their own terms, but to the exclusion of others?

Well, yes. That point could indeed be made. Which is why Capgemini has formed a consortium with other major industry players to create an open-source standard that everyone can use. It’s called Margo, and it has just been launched and hosted by the Linux Foundation.

Our partner founding consortium members, ABB / B&R, AVEVA, Microsoft, Rockwell Automation, Schneider Electric and Siemens, have endorsed the approach, and have collaborated to visualize a shared destination in the industrial automation space, together with the conditions that will need to prevail.

Once this initiative goes live, other vendors will be free to participate and to become compliant with the proposed new standard. It will mean they won’t need to have specialist knowledge of the infrastructure of their fellow vendors. It will also mean that their services will be able to access a wider spectrum of infrastructure, since their participation in the project will automatically make everything open and interoperable. That, after all, is what establishing a standard is all about.

And of course, Capgemini has ensured that the Intelligent Edge Application Platform is compatible with the standard.

A game-changing moment for manufacturing

This can be seen as a watershed moment – as the point at which the manufacturing world has changed, at which factory floor systems are moving from working locally and in isolation to operating at scale, at AI-driven levels of efficiency, and – perhaps most crucially of all – in a unified manner, with full interoperability and communication.

These are exciting times. It’s an opportunity not just for all the participating vendors addressing this market, but for every manufacturer they serve. All of them – vendors and manufacturers alike – will be able to find new ways to innovate, to diversify, to operate, to optimize, to serve their customers, and ultimately, to succeed.

And because the consortium is already broadening and building momentum, we can do more than merely hope for greater improvements. We can expect them.

The factory of the future is closer than ever. Working together, we can all start to build it right now.


Nicolas Rousseau

Chief digital and manufacturing officer, Capgemini Engineering | Group Offer Leader, Intelligent Products & Services | Executive Vice-President
Nicolas Rousseau enables the intelligent industry. He brings his holistic view on technologies and business to work with companies to successfully imagine, build and operate new products and services. He has helped businesses transform, orient their R&D, reinvent their manufacturing and run customer experiences across the globe, in all industries.