It is that time of year when we all wipe the dust off our crystal balls and peek into the future. CTS asked industry experts from all sectors for their views on what will be making an impact in the world of manufacturing next year – so here they are in no particular order
Theo Saville, chief executive officer, CloudNC
It may seem strange to pick up on disruption as a trend for 2020, not least because it encompasses many separate trends such as servitisation, robotisation, AI, automation, and others that are central to the rapid evolution of industrial enterprises in the era of the fourth industrial revolution.
There is a hint of irony in the phrase disruption too – since for most industrial companies anything that disrupts output/throughput is usually a really bad thing. That is part of the challenge that industrial enterprises face. The necessity to keep the factory/process going often outweighs the perceived benefit of any changes. This runs paradoxically against the bottom-line requirement for change, since enterprises that do not embrace disruption will very soon be outcompeted and become obsolete. It is a clear and present danger for UK industry perhaps, best exemplified by theproductivity puzzle.
Then there is the other side of the coin – the companies that are the disruptors, the ones that are driving the innovation, and I would certainly like to think that CloudNC is one such organisation. The UK is almost uniquely well positioned to be a hotbed for disruptive innovators, given its reputation for historic innovation, its access to R&D through established universities, its broad and world-class advanced engineering industry, its access to investment, and its strong start-up and digital culture.
I expect to see the two sides of the disruption coin play out significantly in UK industry in 2020 and beyond. The rapid adoption of disruptive technologies by UK industry will gather pace as more companies undertake their own digital transformation journeys, changing their business structures to offer new services and outsource existing aspects of their day-to-day operation and modernisation. On the flipside I see the UK’s disruptors offering UK industry more and better ways of being productive.
The disruptors and the disrupted are two sides of the same coin for UK industry and contribute to ever more connected UK supply chains and service agreements that shorten the distance between end users and manufacturers and between consumers and creators. This convergence means that there is huge potential for both established and new industrial enterprise in the UK.
It leads me to believe that despite political and economic headwinds, positive disruption will gain significant ground in 2020, and I am extremely excited by the potential it offers to UK industry.
Ali Nicholl, head of engagement, Iotic
Over the past 18 months we have seen the rise of digital twins as a concept moving from simple visualisations to fully interactive tools sitting on top of data lakes and platforms. This new generation of digital twins offers unparalleled opportunities to transform services, businesses and communities.
However, for twins to fulfil their potential and deliver what has been described as ‘The Third Platform’, we need to move from single, powerful asset twins, to a world where all things are machine readable – including people, processes, spaces and the confluence of all of them.
That vision of the entire world being subject to the power of algorithms requires twins of literally billions of things and people and businesses to work together. Vendor specific approaches, and solutions built on data siloes that require the ingestion or copying of vast amounts of data are doomed to fail.
We need interoperable ecosystems built on secure twins, each with its own event stream, liberating us from siloes and saving the need to store petabytes of dead data. We need twins that interact through secure brokerage to form transient or permanent collaborative networks, scaling with the customer, consortium or societal needs, beyond the constraints of multiple proprietary platforms, hardware or devices.
Imagine simple smart services, the changing of toilet paper on trains. Currently there is a sensor on the train that reports when the toilet paper runs out. That is a step forward, but it is reactive. The proactive service solution requires individuals to regularly check and if needed, to stock up. It is inefficient, inconvenient and relatively costly. What if we could enable twins of the train, the toilet paper, toilet, service personnel and passengers to interact.
Trains have thousands of data points, but we might only choose to model its location, destination and timetable, and for the toilet paper we need only to know when it was last changed as an event, while the toilet door sensor confirms how may visits there have been and aggregated passenger numbers enable us to infer likely usage. And twins of service personnel mean that we can ensure that the servicing of the toilet on a train happens in a location where we have stock, capability and time.
It is a trivial example but requires the interoperation of at least the service company, train manufacturer, train systems provider, train operating company and infrastructure management company.
Jonathan Rowan, business development director, SSE Enterprise Telecoms
Industrial IoT (IIoT)-enabled monitoring devices, robotics and data-led decision-making have been common features in manufacturing environments for some time now and analysts estimate the quantity of installed IIoT devices will jump from 237 million in 2015 to 923 million (with associated annual spending reaching roughly £205 billion) by 2020. As this adoption of IIoT increases rapidly across the industry, 2020 will be the year manufacturers need to ramp up their investment in devices and enabling connectivity infrastructure in order to support their long-term growth ambitions. The cornerstones of this next generation manufacturing are high bandwidth and low latency – which together support the industry’s need for deeper integration and improved analytics – and these factors all rely on robust and dependable connectivity to deliver sustainable competitive advantage. Due to the small margin for error, IT leaders in manufacturing need to be able to trust the connectivity solutions they’re working with, whether it’s delivering 24/7 operations or providing real-time data replication across sites.
Graeme Wright, CDO for manufacturing and utilities at Fujitsu UK&I
In the next year we will see quantum computing through the use of ‘quantum-inspired computing’, taking significant strides for manufacturers and opening new doors to solve problems that have always been hard to crack. In fact, it could be a be silver bullet for a whole host of problems; for example, making it possible to find the optimal way for logistics, robotic welding sequences, warehouse management, cyber-security, supply chain processes – in fact, just about any business process.
In the manufacturing sector, 79 per cent of businesses believe that quantum computing will transform their business. And we are already seeing technologies inspired by quantum concepts. Take for example, how one automotive manufacturer is using quantum-inspired computing to streamline robot welding operations on a production line. This allows more cars to be manufactured in a given time on the same line, reducing the need for additional resources to be used in the paint shop, and therefore reducing costs.
Ultimately, quantum computing has the power to solve challenges faster and with increased precision, but until it moves from theory to reality, we must look to quantum inspired computing to solve the manufacturing industry’s problems today. For the year ahead, the manufacturers looking to scale and reach new capabilities, it will be quantum-inspired computing that will be critical to helping them achieve this.
Phil Hadfield, UK country director, Rockwell Automation
It is hard to predict the future, especially where technology trends are concerned, but the benefits for those with the digital foresight to see how new technology can be adopted to improve their businesses are vast. For industry, seeing into the future – specifically in terms of plant modernisation – is not only possible, it is becoming a vital technology trend that I expect to see expand rapidly in 2020 and beyond.
There are clear advantages to the hugely powerful simulation and emulation software technologies that are now available for industrial companies as they set about modernising their applications in the era of the fourth industrial revolution. Knowing, through this technology, the parameters and potential, as well as the limitations and practical considerations of your upgrades, improves return on investment by shortening design and commissioning, reducing downtime, avoiding errors, and finding the most efficient and cost-effective routes to modernisation.
The idea is not new – from Brunel’s sketches in his notebooks, to banks of engineers at draughting tables, and on into CAD that has dominated the past 25 years or more, the industrial design process has always sought to improve outcomes through design development.
In the digital era, both brownfield and greenfield development can use virtual design, prototyping and commissioning to know much more about system upgrades before incurring manufacturing and automation costs and committing to a final design. Using software to create a digital replica of a plant allows enterprise leaders the opportunity to simulate the effects of new processes and additional plant. Connect the digital twin with other burgeoning technologies, such as VR and AR and the potential of the digital twin grows again, as this title recently covered here. It allows for engineer training to be completed before the new plant is even built so they are ready to go as soon as it is in place. It allows for remote assisted maintenance once the plant is commissioned and it allows for fundamental changes to operational flow, design or control to be tested in ‘real-world’ scenarios against the parameters of the actual plant before any changes are made or downtime is incurred.
MAKING IT EASY
Dan Lohmeyer, SVP product management, industrial applications and Predix platform, GE Digital
There has been a lot of talk about the potential of digital transformation for the last few years, and it is becoming increasingly normal for manufacturers to use software to operate, analyse and optimise their operations. But despite digital technologies becoming increasingly common, it still isn’t as easy as it should be to implement and drive value across an enterprise at speed and scale.
Looking ahead, GE Digital predicts that 2020 will be the year that software vendors make industrial applications more accessible and easier to use than ever – becoming the most common tool in any manufacturer’s toolbox for driving strategic and operational performance.
Manufacturers and plant operators recognise that the amount of industrial data is growing at a rapid pace. While this presents new opportunities, turning that data into value can be hard to do – it’s not just about technology, but also culture. Without a cross functional leadership team to drive a clear plan, managers can often find themselves drowning in unused data, and more importantly miss out on the potential strategic and operational insights that could be derived from it. That needs to change.
That’s why leaders are increasingly looking for solutions that can achieve IT/OT convergence with greater simplicity, scale and speed. These are important – because no investment can be justified without clear ROI, and the faster optimisation technologies can be deployed across an enterprise, the faster that ROI can be achieved.
But for widespread adoption, simplicity is going to be vital because driving adoption across an organisation is hard enough without needing to train hundreds of workers on new software or sell business cases across multiple functions and departments. Given the power of these technologies, it should be a no-brainer. That is why it is so important that software vendors invest in making their solutions as intuitive to use as a smartphone.
Ultimately, companies that harness their data and successfully apply it intentionally across IT and OT will see a boost to their operational performance, shaving down operating costs and gaining an advantage over less sophisticated competitors. The successful software companies will make this easy to do, wherever their customers are on their digital transformation journeys.
Manufacturing is digitising fast. More than ever before, manufacturers and plant administrators have an opportunity to fulfil a more strategic role within their organisations. 2020 will be the year that the Industrial IoT becomes easier to implement and deploy than ever.
Gary Brooks, CMO, Syncron
2020 will be a transition period for manufacturers and service providers as they continue to maintain existing products in the marketplace while simultaneously introducing new product-as-a-service business models. Maximising product uptime in both scenarios will require manufacturers to review their technology and infrastructure over the coming year.
Today’s customers are demanding round the clock service and always-on products. Hence, for manufacturers, the value of a product is increasingly in the outcome or value it delivers, rather than the sale of the product itself. This trend – known as servitisation – is driving manufacturers to shift their focus from ad hoc, retroactive repairs to dynamic repair prevention. Manufacturers will be investing further in technologies that enable predictive maintenance and support the shift to servitisation, such as IoT, AI, sensors and machine learning. These cannot work effectively without software that can analyse the data and optimise the service supply chain.
With the emergence of IoT enabled products, the traditional break-fix model of service will eventually be phased out. But given that large, durable goods such as automobiles, heavy equipment and industrial machinery are built to last – with some product lifespans reaching up to three to four decades – this transition will take some time. Products that were manufactured and sold before smart parts will continue to rely on break-fix and general maintenance, and even smart-enabled products will occasionally succumb to unforeseen accidents. To achieve maximised product uptime in 2020 will require optimising the service supply chain for both break-fix models and servitisation.
Jos Martin, senior engineering manager, MathWorks
Industry 4.0 will have a huge impact on manufacturing in 2020. The biggest impact will be on the people working in the factory of the future. Technologies of this new era – namely machine learning and deep learning – will bring more opportunities to the workforce and allow companies to innovate and achieve more. AI is advancing fast and will continue to develop at a rapid pace in 2020. While AI models were once majority image-based, most are now also incorporating more sensor data, including time-series data, text and radar. Plus, tools such as automated data processing, labelling and categorisation mean individuals can use their domain knowledge to rapidly curate large, high-quality datasets. The greater the availability of high-quality data, the more likely it is that an AI model will be accurate, and therefore the higher the likelihood for success. As artificial intelligence progresses further and becomes more prevalent, more people will have the chance to work on AI-driven projects – not just data scientists as it has been traditionally, but also smart engineers and scientists. Demand for skills such as model building, Big Data analysis and dealing with large datasets in addition to the ability to deploy the correct development tools will grow.
Engineers and scientists will be well-placed to lead and support their colleagues on AI-driven projects for several reasons. First, their inherent knowledge of the machinery data being used, given they work with it regularly already. Unlike data scientists, they do not have to start from scratch in getting to know the data, giving them a significant advantage over those not as familiar with the domain area. Second, because engineers and scientists now have access to existing deep learning models, and because research from the community is now more accessible than ever before, they can easily educate themselves on any gaps in their knowledge and avoid repeating past mistakes or inefficient processes.
Company leaders do however need to play their part in ensuring they and their workforce are making the most of all the new technologies have to offer, so will be updating job descriptions, implementing new training programs and hiring skilled engineers with different profiles to what they have previously. They will also invest in the building and operation of new industrial equipment to improve manufacturing and production rates.
Sean Robinson, service leader at Novotek UK & Ireland
In 2020, smart fatigue will take hold as a major industrial trend. After years of buzzwords being batted about, industrial business leaders are reaching a point where phrases like smart manufacturing, industrial internet of things and Big Data are too conceptual and near-meaningless. Instead, progress will lie in focussing on value over vagueness.
When we reiterate the same points about Industry 4.0, the IIoT and smart factories, are we not simply talking about the vehicles that allow you to get to where you are going? Where, exactly, is the destination?
The upshot of there being so much talk about Industry 4.0 is that most are now on the same page as to what it is and to why it has business value. Concepts like remote maintenance, predictive analysis and digital twins are now established firmly in the engineering lexicon.
Nevertheless, expect smart fatigue to set-in during 2020. At Novotek, we’re already seeing manufacturers and engineers grow tired of peering into the Industry 4.0 crystal ball. So, what do we tell them?
We recommend that a grounded approach to technology investments will be essential if manufacturers are to get ahead of the competition during this Industry 4.0 journey and yield more profit at its destination. A more grounded approach to Industry 4.0 is to realise that it is not how you perform this control or data analysis.
More importantly, it is about how you connect the data back to your business. One way to achieve this is by using an IoT platform, which collates and analyses data from all connected processes, that includes digital twinning functionality.
Better data use can dramatically increase uptime, through preventive maintenance, for example, plus a real-time view of key performance indicators.
This allows plant managers to have a value-oriented view of their operations, to make useful decisions. In 2020, manufacturers need to look beyond smart buzzwords and take a grounded approach to how they apply IIoT and ensure that reduced costs and higher profits remain the true goals.
Martin Walder, VP industrial automation, Schneider Electric
With the UK manufacturing industry under increasing pressure to deliver more at a lower cost, the coming years will see manufacturers take steps to create a completely ‘smart’ factory floor.
Thanks to recent advancements in technologies, most notably with the IIoT, using smart technology is feasible for a greater number of manufacturers. However, a truly smart factory is one that is completely digitised with a high level of automation and connectivity with its whole supply chain.
We are seeing a significant increase in the demands for robots, and indeed cobots as a result of rising wages and skill shortages. As automation developers introduce better sensing/vision capabilities, ever more complex applications can be tackled. More responsive safety systems will also allow cobots to work alongside humans with greater flexibility, improving productivity, hygiene and safety.
With this change comes an additional benefit. For a skills-poor industry struggling to attract engineering expertise, the robotics and cobotics movement, with the improved productivity it generates, will create more opportunities for skilled workers to work on more value-add activities.
For the robotics and cobotics movement to thrive, we must educate our workforce on its benefits and capabilities. With greater understanding will come greater implementation and proficiency. Over the next ten years we expect to see it proliferate and manufacturers to reap the benefits of greater efficiency, profitability and performance. At the same time, any manufacturing operations that do not adopt digital technologies will get marginalised – if not lost. Ultimately, legacy/non-connected technologies do not fit into the digital ecosystem, where analysis and optimisation are fundamental.
We are set to see more manufacturers recognise the true benefits of smart manufacturing. In the meantime, increased data insights and connectivity will lay solid foundations for new, and more effective business models.
Claudine Bianchi, CMO, Zoovu
Businesses in the manufacturing industry are struggling to keep up with customer expectations. The latest research highlights that 70 per cent of manufacturing buyers knowingly admit that their expectations are high, a further 62 per cent demand more convenience and 58 per cent expect a digital experience. And, crucially, 81 per cent of B2B buyers said they would choose a supplier that offers a consumer-like experience over an equally priced alternative that does not. Creating a digital experience that delivers the hallowed elements of B2C ‘human’ engagement may sound contradictory, but it isn’t. Investing in technology that allows buyers to feel like they are understood and being guided as part of a conversation win the race. While the industry may not have historically led the way in consumer-centricity, this will change in 2020.
Mark Dickin, additive manufacturing and moulding engineering lead, Ricoh AM.
It might seem like people have been saying it for some time, but I truly believe 2020 is the year additive manufacturing (AM) makes significant strides in mainstream manufacturing.
3D printing is nothing new, with its roots dating back to the late 1980s, but now we are at the cusp of the technology moving from targeted use in niche sectors to much wider adoption.
AM has long been widely used in F1, for example, where development cycles are being shortened to days and design modifications implemented between races to gain a competitive edge.
The same can be said of aerospace, where weight is vitally important – it costs over £15,000 for every kilogram put into space. The technology is also revolutionising the medical sphere, where prosthetics can be made bespoke to the patient, and it is widely adopted across architecture for modelling.
The next step for AM is the interesting one – serial production.
There are several reasons why I believe the dawn of a new decade will herald an AM revolution – widespread awareness, an increase in available materials and improvements in process control.
It’s been a hard nut to crack, but 3D printing is finally in the consciousness of most manufacturers. Social media is flooded with articles about its potential – as are trade magazines – and you could fill an entire year attending exhibitions and seminars if you wanted to.
Crucially, there are also now university courses for additive manufacturing. This means that product designers are entering the workplace with real knowledge of how to design products which suit the capabilities of AM, rather than traditional methods. Therefore, the demand for AM is increasing.
But perhaps the biggest change in AM has been the improvement in process control. A lack of adequate AM control methods and standards, and in particular standard programming language, has been a concern for larger manufacturers.
NEW BUSINESS MODELS
John Bruno, vice president of product management, Elastic Path
In 2020, manufacturers should be looking at adopting technology like IoT to open new revenue streams. Looking at how they can change their business models from being product-first to customer-first and focus on enhancing experiences for the end-user.
IoT-connected products could re-order their own parts, but many manufacturers let this potential revenue stream slip by. Take a refrigerator with a water filter that must be replaced annually. Usually, a sensor inside the fridge would trigger a lightbulb that alerts the consumer to buy new filters. What if instead of waiting for the customer to go out and purchase new filters, the manufacturer builds in a device that, when it is time to replace the filters, automatically orders the branded, certified water filters for that refrigerator. Rather than a customer having to search for the right filter, it offers them a better experience and increases their loyalty. For the business, it cuts out the middleman, resulting in regular, additional revenue from every one of the fridges sold.
The chip technology to move to a direct fulfilment model isn’t prohibitively expensive for companies and can be done at scale. Manufacturers need to realise that while the old way of selling products has been successful, they will be left behind if they do not pivot to new sales models. A direct-to-consumer model is a natural next step to remain competitive and relevant.
It is a no brainer that companies should be experimenting with advanced technologies. The cost of delivering technology is falling, and that is remarkable. Yes, there are still resources to consider, but the technology is more consumerised and ready bring so many experiences to life. There is no excuse to wait.
Nick Offin, head of sales, marketing and operations, Dynabook Northern Europe
The advent of 5G will see the wearable technology sector continue to reach even more sectors. One such industry is the manufacturing sector, which is poised to transform the way its employees work in the coming years, benefitting from technological advances taking place at an unprecedented rate.
Take, for example, workers on the manufacturing line in an assembly plant. Assisted reality (AR) smart glasses can be used by employees to access and overlay highly detailed specifications or instructions in real time, ensuring greater manufacturing precision, reduced errors, and a more efficient overall process. Remote expertise can also be sought through collaboration tools, all while providing a hands-free experience so actions can be undertaken in real time.
Another example of how AR can speed up production lines, improve workflows and reduce the number of errors is an automotive engineer using AR smart glasses when building a car. Technicians can work on a vehicle and refer to checklists, other text or diagrams through a head-mounted viewer, keeping their hands-on tools at all time. If they run into difficulty, they can even use a video feed to show a more senior technician and get advice to complete a task. In the world of manufacturing time is money, and so too is quality. Getting the right support quickly increases effectiveness and efficiency of workforces, not only those on the front line but also remote workers who would otherwise need to be present at a job.
2020 will be a year of rapid evolution within the wearables sector, with significant uptake in the manufacturing industry. It is easy to see the immense potential wearables can offer the sector and we expect to see the technology shaping new ways of working that will boost efficiency, productivity and safety in the next few years.
Nick Wright, head of manufacturing industries, Digital Catapult
If 2019 was the year that the world sat up and listened to the perils of climate change, 2020 will be the year that the world really starts to do something about it, especially in manufacturing industries. Carbon emissions are an unavoidable by-product of the manufacturing industries, but there are some obvious places where these can be mitigated, the most notable being the supply chain. Digital technologies, such as IoT and Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), have the potential to make significant efficiencies in allowing multiple operators to trace an item as it moves through the production process. 2020 will be the year that DLT and IoT will combine to prove greater value, allowing manufacturers to hugely optimise existing assets and processes and mitigate unnecessary carbon emissions. In the long run it will be a central contribution by the manufacturing sector to help the UK meet its target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Stephen Hayes, managing director of Beckhoff Automation UK
2019, like several years before it, was a year where industry focussed on adopting several types of connected technologies to improve efficiency and real-time insight. 2020 will bring a rise in PC-based control systems as a natural extension to this, driving efficiency at the data level.
It is well understood by manufacturers today that technology is changing and digitising, and there are numerous benefits to making the transition to modern automation and digital technologies. But, in making the transition many businesses have accumulated patchwork networks of fragmented systems or highly complex system architectures. These networks are not necessarily set up for effectiveness, and limit the value provided to manufacturers.
After years of investment, adoption and promised returns, 2020 will see manufacturers go back to basics in developing their systems and networks. This will involve assessing networks at the field level and adopting PC-based control systems that use fieldbus technologies like EtherCAT, which simultaneously streamlines system architectures and speeds-up communication between devices.
The reality is that traditional fieldbus technology — which bounces data signals to and from each node in a network — is too slow, inefficient and resource-intensive for modern connected systems. EtherCAT transmits data far more efficiently, with nodes that read and respond in real-time as data continues to move downstream in the network. Real-time insight is the holy grail of industrial connectivity, and EtherCAT architecture facilitates that.
Manufacturers can streamline their network structures, as EtherCAT can be deployed from a PC-based control system instead of a complex web of hundreds of fieldbus terminals. The technology can process 1,000 input/output (I/O) points in 30 microseconds and communicate with 100 servo axes in 100 microseconds, with each transmitted frame of data being capable of exchanging the equivalent of almost 12,000 digital inputs and outputs.
In effect, it addresses the issues of bloating infrastructure and inefficient transmission that manufacturers encounter in their connected, digital journeys.
Objectively, EtherCAT and PC-based control seem to be the clear winners for industrial connectivity. If digitalisation is all about getting real-time insight into complex industrial processes that were previously difficult to monitor, EtherCAT ensures that real-time data is as instantaneous as possible and PC control suites keep networks streamlined.
When we consider the promises that have been made of what’s achievable with industrial networked systems and the Industrial Internet of Things, the technology clearly has a lot to live up to. The rise of PC-based control in 2020 will finally see industrial infrastructure catch up with expectations.
Chris Sherry, regional VP EMEA North, Forescout
As we have seen in 2019, the manufacturing industry is often struck by debilitating cyberattacks that have the power to take operations offline for hours, days and weeks. Businesses just need to look back at the example of Norsk Hydro earlier this year to realise the impact that malicious hackers can have; the company was hit by the LockerGoga ransomware which impacted worldwide operations and accrued losses of around $40 million.
Disruptionware, as these types of threat are often known, commonly target operational technology such as pumps, valves and sensors that may not be considered at risk to cyberattacks. That is because this type of technology has only recently become IP-enabled and therefore was never designed to connect to the internet when it was first implemented. As such, these pieces of machinery may lack basic cybersecurity measures and leave glaring gaps in a company’s IT infrastructure that they were never even aware of.
In 2020, disruptionware will increasingly intersect with connected systems and rogue devices such as these. Sadly, we believe that, despite the increased focus on businesses in the sector to improve their cybersecurity hygiene, there will be at least one big attack on a manufacturing company that will severely disrupt the company’s operations. This event will serve as yet another wake-up call to CISOs to reconsider the IT/OT convergence inside their own companies, evaluating technologies like network segmentation which will allow them to protect these systems.
Ian Mash, director, CTO Huawei Carrier Business Group, UK
The next 12 months will be when the manufacturing sector takes its first steps into the world of 5G, a technology which has the potential to transform the industry.
We know manufacturing is already undergoing a rapid digital transformation and both data and technology are key to help the industry remain competitive and offset skills shortages.
Now the unique advantages of the next generation of connectivity are emerging, they will open endless opportunities, such as augmented reality, precision monitoring and advanced predictive maintenance, making it easier to analyse production in real-time.
Put simply, 5G will allow businesses to connect more devices, capture more data and ensure connections are ultra-reliable. The result will be reduced costs and new income streams.
By monitoring data from the entire plant and its processes continuously, processes can be adapted in real time to maximise productivity and reduce defect rates. For example, a production line in a factory will be able to accurately predict when a machine will fail and thereby reduce unplanned downtime.
5G also has the potential to reduce the skills gap and improve health and safety. For instance, streaming content to augmented reality headsets will improve efficiency and support workers in maintenance, operational processes, and training.
A recent report by research analysts STL Partners estimates the global impact of 5G could be worth around US$700 billion to the manufacturing sector by 2030. But to realise this opportunity, we need to make sure 2020 is the year we take the first active steps towards embracing 5G.
The research shows that those who invest in adopting these new technologies will get the quickest benefit. Collaboration between the industry, telecoms operators and government are key to making this happen. The onus will be on the manufacturing sector to build an understanding of 5G and its benefits, and work with developers and regulators to create common standards and new use cases.
The prize is a more efficient, productive industry which will create greater profits and opportunities for people. Not taking this chance could lead to a damaging decline in competitiveness as others forge ahead.
2020 will be the year of 5G and manufacturing stands to be one of the greatest beneficiaries. We believe that 5G has the potential to grow the global GDP of the manufacturing sector by four per cent by 2030.
ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABILITY
Prasad Satyavolu, chief digital officer, manufacturing & logistics, Cognizant
Some dreams take time to come true, especially if they amount to the most profound transformation we have seen since the industrial revolution as manufacturers adapt and evolve to an ever connected and green(er) world.
Green is the new black. In 2020, environmental issues will continue to be at the top of everyone’s agenda when it comes to manufacturing. While electric vehicles will have a long-term impact once widely adopted, particularly in reducing the usage of fossil fuels, there are immediate steps that can and should be taken.
Primarily, water conservation will be a crucial issue in 2020 and beyond. Manufacturing is not unique as an industry in its high-water usage and this needs to be addressed, for business as well as environmental reasons.
It is not cheap to get through the industrial levels of water that manufacturing requires and finding internal methods to recycle will only grow as a priority.
Companies should now be targeting ‘circular innovation’, comprising desirability, viability, feasibility and crucially, sustainability.
Climate changes have brought increases in extremes, with both water shortages and flooding growing in occurrence. This has left water utilities navigating an unsteady path to transformation; putting a strain on manufacturers who rely on water for their production lines. The more volatile, and potentially expensive, this is, the more damage it can do to a business before the ethical and environmental impact of water wastage is even considered.
Sustainability will become a key pillar of manufacturing in 2020, and this can start with water. While the water utilities work to improve their processes, companies individually can make great advances in their water conservation and recycling.
Mark Gray, UK sales manager, Universal Robots
We predict that automation will continue to be a buzzword across industries in 2020. This will be particularly prevalent in the manufacturing sector where companies are struggling to keep up with production demands due to a shrinking pool of labour. This year saw manufacturers contend with the all too familiar trend of a depleting workforce, which we expect to only gain momentum in 2020. This is largely caused by the uncertainties surrounding Brexit, but also due to a lack of access to skilled labour as the current workforce is aging and not enough young people are entering the field. The competition to attract the scarce labour force will lead to companies offering larger salaries – a concern for SMEs with limited budgets.
Collaborative robots are the ideal solution to overcome these hurdles. They offer an affordable and flexible automation solution to businesses of all sizes. With concerns around Brexit likely to linger throughout 2020, cobots offer a safe future investment to companies due to their ability to adapt to different tasks as required. Whilst automating processes may feel like a daunting and expensive task to many, cobots are designed to be easy to operate and seamless to integrate into existing operations. Due to their size and multiple safety functions, including motion and impact sensors, cobots can be placed directly on the factory floor to work alongside human employees. They are not here to work autonomously and replace human workers, but rather to act as tools to ease the workload of human employees and allow them to instead be upskilled and focus on more rewarding tasks by taking over the most repetitive, arduous and monotonous tasks.
THE DISTRIBUTION OF COMPUTING
Greg Hookings, head of business development – digitalisation, Stratus Technologies
Is data on the move? 2020 will see the distribution of computing across networks to keep up with the estimated 15 billion smart devices connected to the Internet of Things.
Not all data is the same. Industrial enterprises are producing huge volumes of data which opens opportunities for new insights into their systems. In the past, computing data – turning it into information, has been the preserve of the IT department, but with the growth and huge capacity capability of cloud computing, and the emergence of localised edge computing platforms, there are various ways in which computing can now be distributed. It is fair to say that different locations for computing have different advantages, and that is giving rise to a trend for hybrid computing architectures that offer the best of all worlds.
Cloud computing brings with it a host of benefits to manufacturers. Relatively low cost due to being embedded into existing IT infrastructure, cloud is an easy way to deal with the large amounts of data made available by the ever-increasing intelligence of industrial automation. By sending machine data to the cloud for analysis and contextualising with enterprise-level data, manufacturers can gain actionable insights into energy usage or maintenance, for example. This machine data is high in volume and consistently producing more information for review, this is where the potential of cloud computing is being realised. When it comes to Big Data, the cloud’s massive inherent compute power makes it ideal.
For most industrial enterprises it makes sense not to send all data to the cloud but rather to keep some computing power within the network. Edge computing often combined with local data centres offer manufacturers the tools to make decisions without the data ever leaving the network. This also means they are not relying on costly heavy cloud resources, which can take time when dealing with time-sensitive analysis. Meanwhile, edge computing offers flexibility for remote site computing too. Transportation, oil rigs or water treatment plants are all examples where data-rich machinery is located away from the traditional data centre. By deploying edge computing, the data can be analysed and actioned in real time making businesses more agile, reducing the risk of downtime and improving maintenance and management regimes.
2020 will see a wider deployment of edge computing and by 2022, and according to Gartner 75 per cent of all data will need analysis and action at the edge and this trend is giving rise to a hybrid approach. We expect that the coming year will see manufacturers deploying this distributed approach, employing edge computing for real-time collection and analysis of data at the application level whilst using the cloud to provide a centralised location for large-scale analytics.
The Top 20 Transformational Technologies for 2020
In its report 20 for 20, Lux Research reveals what technologies you should be following this year
“Each year, we ask our analysts this question, ‘what technologies will you be following this year that have the greatest potential to transform the world over the next decade?” Michael Holman, Ph.D. VP of Research at Lux says. “We also investigate the same question using the Lux Intelligence Engine data platform. In 2020, we will continue to see a lot of changes and new technologies making the list.”
1. 5G Networks – up 12 spots from 2019
2. Shared Mobility – new entry
3. Advanced Plastic Recycling – new entry
4. Solid-State Batteries – up seven spots
5. Protein Production – new entry
6. Commercial Vehicle Automation – new entry
7. Point-of-Use Sensing – new entry
8. 3D Printing – down seven spots
9. Energy Trading Platforms – new entry
10. Natural Language Processing – up six spots
11. Hydrogen & Fuel Cells – new entry
12. Materials Informatics – up two spots
13. Quantum Computing – new entry
14. Last-Mile Delivery – up four spots
15. Blockchain – up four spots
16. Battery Fast Charging – down ten spots
17. Omics – new entry
18. 2D Materials – down nine spots
19. Flow Batteries – new entry
20. Vertical Farming – new entry
But what about the technologies that dropped off the 2019 list? These are not suddenly losers or busts – they were just not quite suitable for selection to the top 20. Generally, technologies that dropped from the list did so in one of three ways, with slightly different implications for executives planning their innovation strategies.
Some techs have become such standard practice in relevant industries that there is less value and relevance to including here such as machine learning, microbiome and cybersecurity. Other techs are related to or form one component of bigger-picture technologies that are still included in the 20 for 20 this year, such as wearable electronics, genome editing and precision medicine. Finally, some techs are still relevant and even growing in innovation interest but are no longer growing as rapidly as those on the list. The category includes AR/VR, drones, perovskite solar and generative design.