2018 was quite an active year in IIoT. Spending increased on IoT in general, and larger corporations acquired smaller entities with a total of $3.3B recorded in IoT investments for the past 12 months, according to iotanalytics.com. Demand for smart solutions has increased, and many early adopters tested and tried the latest digital solutions. Will the industry get smarter about how it implements smart IIoT solutions? Let’s see what the experts say about 2019 and beyond.

IIOT - What’s in Store for 2019 and Beyond: Predictions for the Future of Industry 4.0

Here are Five IIoT Predictions for the Future:

  1. Early adopters of IIoT will grow much faster than their non-IIoT-adopting competitors, as much as 5x revenue. As a result of the innovative drive and risk taking initiatives of early adopters, “over 40% of manufacturers will have enterprise-wide digital transformation initiatives in place by 2021”, according to IDC. Furthermore, “for manufacturers who focus on IoT as a growth strategy, 2019 will be a breakaway year compared to many of their peers who are still looking at IoT only for cost reduction,” as discussed in manufacturing.net.
  2. Data and Real-Time monitoring will become key for improving operations, including avoiding downtime. By 2020, 80% of manufacturers will restructure extensively, putting data at the forefront, according to IDC. As an increased number of plants begin utilizing data to improve their operations, manufacturers will need to adjust to remain competitive. In a survey published by manufacturing.net, “81 percent reported that real-time monitoring is improving their business. And 52 percent of all manufacturers are relying on real-time monitoring to improve scheduling accuracy.” IDC further expands by stating that by 2021, 90% of manufacturers will leverage data “to self-diagnose issues in advance and trigger a service intervention to avoid unplanned downtime.” We expect that this type of predictive monitoring will play a large part in the operational improvement of the future.
  3. Manufacturers will need to protect their networks from threats and cyber security breaches. Where new technology goes, hackers will follow, and companies can expect their shiny new smart systems to become targets for cyberattacks in 2019, potentially leading to production shut-downs. These attacks will amplify the need for advanced security measures, for example, what Forrester calls Zero Trust Security. Zero Trust is a security concept in which everything trying to connect to an organization’s systems must be verified, and that nothing should be automatically trusted regardless of if it is inside or outside its perimeters.
  4. Lights-off production will become a reality. The more intensive software-centric product development approach implemented by many industrial firms, with the help of smart autonomous machinery, means a greater ability to run unsupervised processes for many production shifts. For the first time, small and mid-sized industrial operations will be able to accomplish lights-out manufacturing free of human operation.
  5. Growing skills gap. With greater need for data analytics and other advanced skills, companies will be looking for new ways to fill their positions. According to a Deloitte study, this skills gap may force companies to leave millions of positions unfilled, with a potential economic impact of $2.5 trillion. Industrial manufacturers will need to start to market their opportunities to more technologically savvy applicants, persuading them to pursue a career in manufacturing. This trend can also lead to increased recruitment of foreign workers, and companies should evaluate possibilities to retrain their existing employees to keep their skills relevant.​

What Do these Predictions Mean for Manufacturing Executives in the Coming Year?

First, it is imperative to understand all your options thoroughly; the markets are maturing, and companies are more familiar with the available IIoT solutions, in many cases having piloted one or more solutions already. These initial trials have provided valuable experience, and even in cases where the results were disappointing, operators and management especially, come to the next implementation with a clearer idea of what they need, and a realistic understanding of what it will take to bring value to the plant. One of the valuable insights some process manufacturers have gained is that they need to choose the most fitting solutions and smart manufacturing strategies for their plants. For example, process manufacturers, should be sure to choose the solutions that are dedicated to this area of manufacturing expertise.

Second, while more early adopters are perfecting their processes, it is important for those who haven’t transformed their plants digitally to get on board, providing them with a competitive edge. Make sure to have a budget in place for the smart manufacturing technology, a secure environment to protect the new systems, and be prepared to re-train your employees, and emphasize the importance of agility with your team and newer recruits.