Per findings from ABI Research’s Industrial and Manufacturing Semiannual Update report, select digital-transformation initiatives have gained considerable momentum in terms of their adoption and potential. These include cloud for collaboration and synchronization across teams and departments, digital twins for monitoring and maintenance, and analytics and AI for system-wide, software-driven automation.
ABI Research notes that manufacturers and industrial firms will spend $19.8 billion to transform and support their IIoT data-analytics value chains by 2026, up from $4.92 billion in 2020.
“Future factories are expected to have flexible and adaptable manufacturing lines that operate with greater autonomy, integrated closed-loop quality control, and connected workers to improve effective response to changes in supply and demand as they occur,” says Ryan Martin, research director, ABI Research. “The reality is that most manufacturers did not have these capabilities going into the pandemic. Yet today technologies like cloud, simulation, and SaaS are viewed as table stakes.”
Notable market activity includes the strategic partnership between Siemens and SAP, PTC’s acquisition of Arena Solutions, Aveva’s acquisition of OSIsoft, Emerson’s pick up of Open Systems International (OSI), and the more noticeable encroach on smart manufacturing platforms by hyperscalers AWS and Microsoft Azure. Meanwhile, companies such as Autodesk (Fusion 360), Dassault Systèmes (3DEXPERIENCE), PTC (OnShape, Windchill), and Siemens (TeamcenterX) continue to double down on cloud and SaaS. Startups such as Fictiv and Instrumental, although very different companies are also rethinking the role of software and quality from design through manufacturing.
“Digital maturity is measured in five levels,” continues Martin. “These levels span human-controlled and early automation to full, lights-out manufacturing. Most manufacturers are at level 2 or 3 (modern factory, IT/OT integrated); they have started to connect some assets and see the benefits of digital transformation but haven’t fully scaled. Levels 3 and especially 4 and 5 are where technologies like wireless connectivity (mobility, 5G), IoT platforms/suites, and AI become critical for both monitoring and closed-loop quality automation and process control.”
The largest manufacturing economies are China, United States, Japan, and Germany, notes ABI. Discrete industries—automotive, consumer goods, and machinery—generally lead in terms of advanced manufacturing technology adoption. However, with transportation (automotive, aviation) and oil & gas sectors hit hard by the immediate and residual effects of the pandemic, there has been more activity in process industries such as pharmaceutical manufacturing, chemicals, and food & beverage.