Google Cloud Platform (GCP) is set to release two new solutions targeted at the manufacturing sector and aiming to ease data engineering and analytics tasks, unifying data from diverse machine assets to offer business insights to factory managers.\n\nGCP's new offerings come at a time when enterprises in the manufacturing sector are adopting systems to meet the challenge of volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (also known as VUCA) conditions arising from global phenomena including the pandemic and the "Great Resignation".\n\nNearly two-thirds of manufacturers globally already use cloud solutions, according to consulting firm McKinsey, and marketing intelligence company ReportLinker reports that the global smart factory market \u2014 consisting of companies using technology such as IoT \u2014 is expected to reach $214.2 billion by 2026.\n\nBut enterprises that are planning digital transformation of their factories or are in some stage of emerging tech implementation face big challenges, Google says.\n\n"We believe the scalability challenges revolve around two factors \u2014 the lack of access to contextualized operational data and the skills gap to use complex data science and AI tools on the factory floor," Charlie Sheridan, technology director of global manufacturing at Google Cloud, wrote in a blog post.\n\nIn order to help with organizing data and make sense of it for use in business operations, GCP has announced the Manufacturing Data Engine.\n\nEdge-cloud connection helps data extraction\n\nThe Manufacturing Data Engine is designed to let enterprises extract data \u2014 including telemetry and image data \u2014 via a private, secure, and low cost connection between edge and cloud, Sheridan said. The engine comes with built-in data normalization and context-enrichment capabilities, providing a common data model, with a factory-optimized data lakehouse for storage, he added.\n\nMost enterprises, however, use various kinds of machine assets, often referred to as operational technology (OT), to garner data. In order to solve the challenge of gathering disparate kinds of data from these assets, GCP has launched the Manufacturing Connect tool.\n\nDeveloped in partnership with industrial edge data platform provider Litmus Automation, the Manufacturing Connect tool is designed to connect to any OT asset, with a backend library that consists of over 250 machine protocols.\n\n"Manufacturing Connect translates machine data into a digestible dataset and sends it to the Manufacturing Data Engine for processing, contextualization and storage. By supporting containerized workloads, it allows manufacturers to run low-latency data visualization, analytics and ML [machine learning] capabilities directly on the edge," Sheridan said.\n\nManufacturing apps integrate with other Google offerings\n\nEnterprises can also use the Manufacturing Data Engine in combination with other GCP products to generate more insights, do predictive maintenance, and detect machine-level anomalies.\n\nThe Manufacturing Data Engine comes with a ready-to-use integration with templates from Google's no-code Looker BI platform, designed to allow manufacturing engineers and plant managers to quickly create and modify custom dashboards, add new machines, setups, and factories.\n\nIn order to perform predictive maintenance, enterprises can deploy prebuilt machine learning models and refine them with the help of Google Cloud engineers.\n\nTo help manufacturing teams discover machine-level anomalies, the company has built an integration underpinning GCP's Time Series Insights API on real-time machine and sensor data that identifies unwarranted changes and provides alerts.\n\nGoogle faces rival industry-specific solutions\n\nGoogle Cloud's manufacturing solutions will compete with offerings from the stables of AWS, Microsoft Azure, Oracle and IBM, which offer similar solutions bundled with more horizontal capabilities, said Holger Mueller, principal analyst at Constellation Research.\n\nGoogle had started the trend of launching industry-focused solutions back in 2019 when Thomans Kurian was at the helm, Mueller said, adding that these kind of industry solutions help CIOs unlock the true potential of their cloud investment by helping to ensure a faster time-to-market strategy.\n\nSome of Google Cloud's partners for manufacturing solutions include Intel, Splunk, Quantiphi, Cognizant, Litmus Automation, Sotec, GFT and Softserve. \n\nThe company has not given any indication about the general availability of these solutions but is expected to showcase them at the end of this month.