Open Source Software In Factories

Post By: Ryan King On: 16-08-2021 - Industry 4.0 - Industry Trends - Manufacturing

Open source software programs are devised and developed initially by someone needing to address a particular problem. This could be a supply or distribution issue in your manufacturing processes, for example, or a new development in control and connectivity technology. The first iteration of such software represents the initial step in solving your problem, and you can then share it with others who are seeking similar solutions to form a user base. Some dedicated enthusiasts will gradually emerge from this group; they’ll promote the software and contribute to its continuing evolution.

How Prevalent Is Open Source Software?

Figures published by the software composition analysis firm, Synopsys, suggest that 98-99% of all the 1,546 commercial codebases they surveyed in 2020 contained some open source code. The companies scanned in their OSSRA (Open Source Security & Risk Analysis) report covered 17 different industries, amongst which were telecoms, IoT, fintech and aerospace. The presence of open source code elements in commercial software has increased by a huge 259% over the last five years, from an average of 84 such elements to 528.

Open Source Software In Factories

We're strongly in support of open source at Rowse. Over the years, we've used several types of open source software, and contributed to various development solutions. We've learned that this gives us access to the tools we want, and a creative way to adapt systems to our own needs. In manufacturing, engineers can access ground floor source code, implement it in factories, and teach the workforce how to use and adapt it. Companies that support open source software ultimately benefit from a more productive and skilled workforce.

Increased collaboration amongst engineers using open source software in factories will help to create a more robust digital community, where they can share ideas and work together towards common goals. This could extend to an exchange of applications on open source principles, where something that one team develops can be downloaded and used by other teams. They can then create new versions to suit their own requirements.

Industry 4.0 is changing the nature of manufacturing. Adopting open source software in factories could significantly assist the transition to a more automated environment. One way of meeting the current challenges in the manufacturing industry is to adopt an open source solution to enterprise resource planning (ERP). Here, each company may adapt the manufacturing ERP software to suit its own needs. By this means, the various tasks in a business system can be integrated and streamlined, with applications mediated by technology in real time. While the human workforce, already struggling to meet the demands of industry, is gradually reduced, manufacturing efficiencies and overall productivity will improve.

An increase in the supply and transparency of data allows decision-makers a faster and more effective response to changes. It enables greater control of the supply chain and faster product delivery, reducing the amount of resources required, and consequently the costs. Inventories can be optimised, orders and revenue tracked through their whole journey, and many accounting processes integrated. In addition, manufacturing ERP software can also integrate managerial, marketing and financial tasks, so that manufacturers can combine multiple planning and forecasting systems onto one platform.

Open Source

Pros And Cons Of Open Source Software In Factories

1. Pro: Cost-Effective

Open source software is freely accessible to anyone, so it appeals especially to those who aren’t able to make a major infrastructure investment in commercial products. Most open source programs are developed to work with a wide range of computer hardware, so they'll also help you extend the life of your legacy systems.

2. Pro: Reliability

Open source software programs are usually developed by experts, who create high quality, reliable programs. They’re also a collaborative and transparent effort, with multiple contributors monitoring the programs for bugs and many more fixing any defects as soon as they arise.

3. Pro: Top-Notch Content

Open source software provides a creative outlet for ideas, where coders can experiment freely to devise high-quality programs, free of corporate restraint. Not all software developers are in it for the money. Even if they're salaried in their day job, they often spend their spare time building programs that will improve the world and gain collective acceptance.

4. Pro: Increased Flexibility

Proprietary software products often confine you to specific IT architecture, requiring constant – and costly – upgrades. Using open source software in factories, you can mix and match solutions to create an IT infrastructure that's tailored to your own needs. If you can't find a ready-made solution for your particular specifications, you also have the option of modifying existing programs.

5. Con: Greater Vulnerability

Many applications are founded on a common store of open source software library codes, because it's cheaper and faster than starting from scratch. However, anyone can use these codes, including hackers, as they're less stringently controlled than commercially produced software. Most commercial applications will have some elements of open source code in their structure, however, and many companies won't even know that it's there. The OSSRA report highlights the security risks of these commercial codebases, finding that 84% of them had at least one vulnerability in open source code.

6. Con: Less User-Friendly

Some open source programs are created according to the developer’s own needs, and may not be as user-friendly as commercial versions. Such software may have a complex user interface which will deter the less tech-savvy amongst us. It pays to shop around before choosing any manufacturing ERP or other integrated solution, to find a platform that works for you.

7. Con: Less Technical Support

Open source software is developed collectively, denying accountability to any specific person if the user suffers a setback or major problem. However, it's also worth noting that most major software firms also disclaim all liabilities in their End User License Agreements. In either case, therefore, you’ll be left without support if you run into problems that disrupt productivity, so it’s better in the long run to adopt open source for the cost savings and easy accessibility.

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