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Industrial DevOps: manufacturing leaders' secret weapon for their tech stack.

Copia Automation
February 14, 2024

Many are familiar with DevOps in the IT world, but the proven approach has yet to influence the industrial sector where proprietary platforms and decades-old legacy practices still dominate how control systems are deployed and maintained.

Yet for industrial companies trying to keep pace with continuously changing business requirements, traditional automation practices are lacking in flexibility and agility. Conventional ways of programming and managing PLCs and other industrial equipment are too reliant on proprietary and siloed tools, laborious programming routines, and a cadre of specialized experts. The old ways of working hamper companies’ ability to respond quickly, gain predictive insights, and transform with digital workflows—all requisites to effectively compete in the modern industrial landscape.

Embracing DevOps programming practices, which have transformed how software development teams work, can move the needle on efficiency and productivity for industrial processes. The DevOps way is all about leveraging collaborative tools to plan, manage, and execute source code development, storing shared files in a common repository, and instituting regular processes for testing and deploying code. This winning combination of best practices keeps development on track and allows for quick identification and course-correction of errors.

Here's how industrial DevOps compares to conventional ways of managing operational technology:

SVN (subversion). This proven version control tool for managing controls-specific source code provides robust check-in and check-out and file management capabilities. However, it lacks visualization functionality for providing context for what’s been changed. SVN was also not designed for collaborative work and has no distributed capabilities, making it hard to track changes when disconnected from the server.

Excel files and archive folders. While a common way to manage source code files, the method requires diligence about annotating the record so teams have the proper visibility into code changes. Without close attention to detail, code chaos can ensue.

Vendor tools. Most industrial automation providers have programming tools that support their proprietary platforms — however, they don’t work well for multi-vendor environments, which is increasingly the norm. That means companies either miss out on the benefits of best-of-breed platforms or spend ample resources on training and integrating multi-vendor tools.

Industrial DevOps. Designed from the ground up for collaboration, industrial DevOps stores all vendor files and source code in a shared repository with expanded visibility and context into code changes. Done right, industrial DevOps ensures automation code is managed with the same level of rigor and resiliency that is now commonplace in IT. 

A proper industrial DevOps platform should deliver a Git-based, common source control repository, continuous code and device validation, and active monitoring and alerts, giving engineers end-to-end visibility and control. The addition of automatic, revertible backup capabilities delivers easy access to past configurations, ensuring that any offline devices can quickly become functional again.

With industrial DevOps tools and practices in place, companies are looking at less down time, more consistent security, and increased productivity for control engineers. PLCs, robotic devices, and other equipment can be deployed more quickly, and insights are readily available to proactively anticipate and recover from potential outages. 

As manufacturers modernize their environments, industrial DevOps may be the secret weapon that ensures future success.

Want to learn more — and see how Amazon is doing it? Check out our guide, The Manufacturing Exec’s Guide for Industrial DevOps.


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