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by Petri Rönkkö, Head of Business Area, Forest, Manufacturing & Services (FMS)

Unlocking Manufacturing Insights with Microsoft Fabric

Manufacturing is a data-intensive industry, generating massive amounts of information from various sources, such as sensors, machines and enterprise systems. However, often this data remains siloed and underutilized in the different factories or siloed systems around the globe, limiting the potential for data-driven insights and innovation over all data sources. Microsoft Fabric, a fully managed data analytics platform, is designed to address these challenges and accelerate data-driven industrial transformation.

What Is Microsoft Fabric and Real-Time Intelligence? 

Microsoft Fabric is an end-to-end analytics software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform that unifies data from both operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) systems. It helps the democratization of data by providing a unified data estate, enabling easy access and analysis for different data consumers. Fabric’s OneLake approach helps tier down data silos by connecting different data sources and provides one unified user experience across different Fabric services in the platform.

Source: Microsoft

Real-Time Intelligence (RTI) integrates and streamlines the end-to-end journey of working with streams and event data. Customers benefit from its ease of working with streams and its ability to respond to events. Combined with Real-Time Hub and experience of having all the streams under a single pane of glass with the Real-Time Hub, makes solution a great fit for real-time streaming use cases. With the ability to add triggers and alerts to those streams in Real-Time Hub, you can have a responsive system to everything that is happening. 

Let’s explore Microsoft Fabric benefits for the manufacturing industry: 

1. Unifying data across OT and IT systems

As mentioned, the manufacturing industry generates information from various sources, from factory machines, manufacturing execution systems (MES), enterprise resource planning systems (ERP) and many other OT or IT systems.  

For real-time integration and streaming scenarios, RTI is a great fit. RTI is designed to handle high velocity streaming data, making it suitable for many manufacturing scenarios where large volumes of data are managed, and data insight and experiences are based on data in motion. Examples of high-velocity data sources are IoT telemetry data, process data from factory production lines, automation systems PLC, logs, or similar. RTI is also a great fit if you need to work with the time-series data, like production historians in manufacturing.  

Real-Time Intelligence Platform’s important services within the Fabric are Eventstream and Eventhouse. Eventstreams are the way to easily bring streaming data into Fabric from multiple sources and route this data to various destinations, including Eventhouse. Eventhouse is a database workspace designed to manage and store event-based data. It’s optimized for high granularity, velocity, and low latency streaming data. Real-Time hub is the hub for all streaming data. 

For non-real-time integration needs, you can use traditional ETL batch processes to integrate data from various IT systems to Fabric Lakehouse using Fabric Data Explorer. 

By combining both OT (Operational Technology) and IT data within the Fabric OneLake, manufacturers gain a comprehensive view of their operations and key performance indicators (KPIs). This harmonization leads to better decision-making, deeper insights, and optimized processes across both manufacturing and business operations. 

2. Accelerating Time-to-Insight

Because Microsoft Fabric is a fully managed Data Analytics Platform, there is no need to manage infrastructure anymore, Microsoft manages it for you. This not only reduces development times and allows faster deployments but also saves maintenance costs. The benefit of a fully managed platform is that the organization can focus on building analytics solutions rather than managing infrastructure. 

Another aspect for accelerating time-to-insight is the standardization of development. Using standardized protocols like OPC-UA and common data models can significantly contribute to this goal. The manufacturing industry data model within Microsoft Fabric (currently in preview) is designed to enhance Manufacturing Operations Management (MoM) and accelerate time-to-insight. Its goal is to empower production teams to make informed, data-driven decisions and elevate operational efficiency across the factory floor. The model follows the industry-standard International Society of Automation (ISA-95) information model, aiming to streamline and standardize data management in manufacturing. By unifying, enriching, and modelling manufacturing data in a standardized way, the manufacturing industry data model enables manufacturers to accelerate time-to-insight generation.

3. Copilot Templates for Factory Operations

Copilot Templates for Factory Operations is an initiative within Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing. Its primary purpose is to assist in interpreting complex data from factory operations. Fabric introduces for example Copilot templates for frontline workers. These templates allow natural language interactions with their own data. Workers can perform tasks, such as root-cause analysis, knowledge discovery, training, issue resolution, and asset maintenance using their unified data. Copilot Templates are powered by Azure OpenAI Service, providing generative AI solutions against the manufacturer’s own data. 

Building unified data estate in Microsoft Fabric is a foundation for efficient use of AI, allowing it to be more efficient when all the data from OT/IT systems are stored to one centralized platform and ready to be utilized by AI and Copilot.

Developer Experience 

Microsoft Fabric provides one unified user experience across different Fabric services in the platform.  Fabric services are built based on familiar tools like Data Factory, Data Explorer (KQL, Kusto Query Language) and Synapse Analytics and PowerBI. Developers can use familiar tools and technologies like SQL, Python, Spark, Notebooks or KQL to build analytics solutions in the Fabric. This makes Microsoft Fabric an easy platform to adopt and learning curve low. Combining to the fact that it’s fully management platform and developer doesn’t need to worry about infrastructure setup, allows developers start experimenting Fabric fast. 

Fabric’s developer experience is enhanced by its seamless integration with Azure services like Azure AI, Azure IoT Operations, Azure API Management or Event Hubs. A migration path is also available from Azure Data Explorer to Eventhouse, making Fabric adoption seamless for existing users.

Conclusion

Microsoft Fabric helps the manufacturing industry by unifying data across different sources, empowering factory frontline workers, and accelerating operational data insights. Its seamless integration with Azure ensures a developer-friendly experience, ultimately speeding up analytics solutions time-to-market.

Microsoft Real-time Intelligence allows organizations to analyze data in motion and provides real-time insights. This is crucial for scenarios where timely actions are essential. In Manufacturing, RTI helps optimize operations by monitoring processes, detecting anomalies, and triggering alerts for better Operational Efficiency. RTI can also be used for predictive maintenance use cases identifying equipment issues before they cause failures. In these kinds of scenarios, RTI helps minimize downtime and reduces maintenance costs. Nortal is already supporting our manufacturing customers in their Shopfloor Digitalization programs to adopt and utilize the benefits of Microsoft Fabric and Real-Time Intelligence Platform. Common use cases are Machine to Cloud connectivity, Operator Dashboards, Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) reporting, Sustainability, Quality, Operational Efficiency and Predictive Maintenance.   

Nortal is your partner for tearing down factory data silos, designing, implementing, and maintaining end-to-end IT/OT architectures and solutions as an important part of a comprehensive shopfloor digitalization strategy. We are experts at managing manufacturing data in motion. If you are interested in starting your Microsoft Fabric journey and interested in, for example, migration of your current Azure Data Explorer to Fabric Eventhouse, contact us today. 

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Let your data unlock efficiency, quality, agility, and sustainability. We are forerunners in leveraging operational technology with hybrid cloud- and data-driven solutions in manufacturing, logistics, and construction. For 35 years, we’ve partnered strategically with leading global industries to simplify and optimize complex processes, gaining efficiency, agility, and sustainability, helping our clients achieve sustainable growth at scale.

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