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Hitachi, Microsoft Enter Strategic Manufacturing Alliance

Hitachi will platform new factory productivity, logistics and predictive maintenance solutions on Microsoft’s Azure Cloud, and integrate those capabilities across Microsoft’s business application suites. Microsoft’s IoT capabilities are ‘more deeply rooted in the industrial world than competitors,’ says Hitachi Vantara’s chief product officer for digital solutions.

Hitachi on Thursday revealed a new strategic alliance through which it will leverage several Microsoft cloud services to help manufacturers automate their factories and ramp efficiency in their logistics operations.

The multi-year Hitachi-Microsoft partnership focusing on joint customers in Asia and North America will deliver three Hitachi solutions—manufacturing productivity, logistics optimization, predictive maintenance—built on the Azure Cloud and integrated with Microsoft 365 and Dynamics 365 application suites.

Sanjay Chikarmane, chief product officer of Hitachi Vantara’s digital solutions division, told CRN that while Microsoft isn’t the largest cloud service provider, it’s more deeply rooted in the industrial world than competitors because of its work on Windows Embedded, which eventually evolved into Windows IoT.

“It's very natural for us to come together as part of this alliance,” Chikarmane said, “so we are hosting many of our software offerings on Azure and then pre-integrating with a lot of Azure capabilities so that as industrial customers as part of their digital transforming look to adopt the cloud, we are there for them with Microsoft.”

[Related: Hitachi Vantara's 5 Biggest Announcements At Next 2019]

The new alliance should benefit channel partners by giving them access to joint solutions, he said.

“These are components that they can then reuse as part of their own solutions on top of Microsoft Azure,” Chikarmane told CRN.

To help customers increase manufacturing productivity, Hitachi will integrate its Lumada IoT portfolio, as well as its HX Series industrial controllers, with Azure infrastructure, Dynamics 365 and Microsoft 365. The Japanese technology giant will also combine the Hitachi Digital Supply Chain with the Azure IoT platform.

On the logistics front, Hitachi will deliver advanced analytics that help achieve greater efficiency and bring down operational costs by analyzing traffic, storage and delivery locations, and smart routing drivers using Azure Maps and Hitachi’s own delivery optimization service.

The third solution will enable predictive maintenance and real-time remote assistance for front-line workers by taking advantage of the Microsoft HoloLens 2 mixed reality headset as well as Dynamics 365 Remote Assist.

The offerings will launch next month in Thailand, and Hitachi will later extend them into Japan and North America.

Microsoft said the two companies plan to expand their collaboration to additional industries, and “explore options to integrate Lumada and Azure into an industry data platform.”

“The two companies will work together to meet the growing demand for predictive maintenance and process automation in remote areas and support enterprises as they tackle the challenges infused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Microsoft said in a statement.

They’ll also collaborate to “support skilling initiatives that empower businesses to grow their digital capabilities and unlock new business opportunities.”

Dylan Martin contributed to this article

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