With Internet of Things (IoT) technology spending forecast to reach $772.5 billion this year — an increase of 15 percent over 2017 — the world’s top manufacturers are set to shift into exhilarating overdrive down the path to AI-driven and IoT-enabled automation. So where will 2018 take us on this journey? First and foremost, the year ahead will see manufacturers rapidly connecting the unconnected, consolidating workloads, focusing on data analytics and virtualizing as much as they can on the manufacturing floor. Furthermore, the manufacturing industry will continue its quest to connect to the data halos transmitted by all of the instrumented people, places and things. They will make further sense of this data by applying analytic algorithms to turn data into actionable information, providing better insight into facilities and production.
Shifting Roles and Revealing Value in IoT
While the industry is embracing IoT, they’ll begin to reveal its value in 2018. Unlike the enterprise resource projects (ERPs) of the 1980s and ‘90s, manufacturers understand that there’s tremendous value in IoT. As a result, 2018 will see a growth in pilots that will showcase results to inform further investment and business benefits — from intelligent manufacturing and field service automation to industrial system consolidation and robotic assembly. Industry leaders will emerge and apply these experiments at high-value locations where they see that they can automate functions.
The rapid growth in automation of routine tasks will free up humans to apply their own unique intuition and creativity to infer associations from disassociated objects. That’s where humans are most effective. Manufacturers will increasingly look for places and ways to automate functions while also looking for ways to apply IoT for improving their business processes. This will certainly appear across the supply chain as businesses take a closer look at the quality of the raw materials that arrive, work in progress and quality steps along the way.
As businesses dig in and begin to uncover the value of IoT, they will increasingly deploy analytic solutions where it makes sense. It’s a tremendously exciting time for the industry, at a time when IoT technology is still growing and being developed. There are nuances and new discoveries that need to be made, as with any new major evolution in the industry. While we’re still very early on, everyone is experimenting, learning quickly, failing quickly, and gleaning solid learning objectives out of the pilots they deploy, slowly bringing it on board.
Positive Disruption through Automation
IoT will also disrupt the market in places where technology can enable businesses to provide more personalization for customers. If a customer wants a certain part created from a certain pattern, from a certain material, delivered on a certain date then they should be able to convert that request to a manufacturing line to delight the customer when it shows up at their door. Manufacturing is heading down the path toward personalization, shaped by the increasing amounts of data insights that are streaming from people, places and things. It will give manufacturers the ability to become so much more efficient and safe in how they deliver their product to customers, aided by disruption in automation and controls, virtualization and software-defined machine control.
The Path to a Smarter Factory
As manufacturers continue on their journey with IoT they can start to make sense of industrial data by applying algorithms and analytics. This, in turn, will enable the ability to leverage machine learning that will inform them on normal versus abnormal behaviors. The next phase will be able to make smart machines to use that data in decision-making and the introduction of control logic. As a result, analytics for large, unstructured data sets like video and audio will increasingly occur at the edge, or other places along the network. This will allow manufacturers to detect anomalies for further examination back at the factory command center.
From workload consolidation and virtualization to revealing IoT insights and expanding automation, as manufacturers apply analytic algorithms that turn data into actionable information there’s not a place in our lives that won’t be touched by industrial IoT. We are in as transformative a phase right now as when electricity was invented. In 100 years, people will look back at this time and wonder how we ever got along without IoT devices, or solutions invented because of IoT. 2018 is shaping up to be a tremendously transformative year that will usher us forward to a better tomorrow.