With the arrival of new scenarios related to the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0, we are currently witnessing a change, although in it's early stages, that will soon be radical for all manufacturing companies. I'm referring to the software component. Whether it is used in products or as customer services support and maintenance processes, the software component is increasingly becoming the core of the products themselves.
Within the products development department, the software component is growing more than any other in recent years. This is true for nearly any industry, from fashion, to automotive and biomedical. Therefore, it is necessary to adopt more industrialized methodologies and tools for developing software, and to obtain support from those whom have the expertise in doing so: IT companies. As a result, IT companies are increasingly assisting manufacturing companies in the adoption of software development methodologies that allow for gradual software releases, in various versions, which are both tested and robust - a necessity in order to avoid potential reputational damages that could be difficult to recover from.
Today, DevOps is among the most popoular of these methodologies.
Devops is a methodology that was first introduced among the IT companies who developed Applications and Cloud services, with the aim to be more rapid, robust and efficient in the launch of various software releases. This methodology is now becoming a priority for manufacturers as well, who are accompanying their machines with advanced control dashboards, predictive maintenance algorithms and mobile applications, in order to monitor the machines themselves.
The DevOps methodology is based on three key principles:
- Increasing of the number of releases, bringing it to the limit of different releases per day, to be able to manage a number of changes (that are few and monitored) within the same release. This is exactly the opposite of the traditional waterfall model commonly used for the development of large application software of the past.
- Implementing a process of testing and coordination of releases for the detection, through a series of predefined steps, of possible errors before they go on to impact production instances.
- Automating this flow. There are now several software platforms on the market, some of these available even in the cloud (such as Amazon Web Services, or AWS) which allow for the automation of the testing process, as well as the release of applications, in order to make the transition from the development phase to the deployment phase as agile as possible.
Adopting these methodologies is not only an organizational change, however - it is also a cultural one. The product development office has to continue incorporating more and more methodologies and operating procedures which might be considered atypical to the classic R&D manufacturer in order to keep up with the pace of market demand.
Why is DevOps for manufacturing so important? As many experts have already predicted, in just a few years every company will also be a software company.