Q: What role will disruptive technologies, such as AI and IoT, play in 2020?
A: Heading into the 2020s, manufacturing companies are rapidly harnessing the unlocked potential of artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT). Having run successful experimentations, these organisations have realised the potential of these technologies to optimise efficiencies and boost revenue.
A key factor that we are seeing become more prevalent, is that more projects being deployed are driven by return on investment (ROI). This is because manufacturers have settled on AI and IOT solutions that are guaranteed to work, for now, this is typically across the most basic of operational functions. However, there is still a huge amount of unallocated investment within the industry, as manufacturers are prioritizing projects likely to return investment within the relatively short term (i.e. next 12-18 months) while deploying at scale is still a challenge.
Q: How has IoT enabled smart factories?
A: The introduction of IoT has been key to the development of data analysis capabilities. IoT can help provide insights on processes, costs, productivity, while simultaneously looking at the supply chain as a whole – the quality of parts and products being used, where they came from, and how they were grown, bought, or created.
As deployments and successful experimentation continue to mature and evolve, manufacturers will have access to huge vaults of data that will inform best practices and efficiencies that had not been previously been considered. With this insight, organisations will be able to leverage the data for predictive analytics. This is set to help companies better understand how their machines work and how materials and energies are used, allowing them to better prepare for future issues.
Q: How can organisations scale smart factories?
A: To survive in the changing market, manufacturers will need to deploy these successful experimentations at scale. Capgemini’s research found that, while today, one in three factories has been transformed into a smart facility, manufacturers plan to create 40% more smart factories in the coming five years. Some organisations view the scalability of smart factories as a roadblock to progress.
In order to operate a smart facility on a larger scale, organisations will need to ensure IT/OT convergence is able to support digital continuity and allow for better collaboration. In addition to digital talent, a wide variety of skills will be necessary to drive smart factory transformation. This includes prioritizing multi-disciplined profiles – such as engineering-manufacturing, manufacturing-maintenance and safety-security. Soft skills, such as problem solving and collaboration, will also remain a key priority.
Q: Will cybersecurity be a concern for organisations, who are turning to smart factories?
A: In today’s connected world, it is necessary to store confidential and sensitive information on the cloud and on the edge. With an increasing number of manufacturers turning to smart facilities, securing the factory’s network is more important than ever. By not securing their end-to-end infrastructure sufficiently, manufacturers risk becoming victims of cybercrime. This could result in the loss, or theft, of data, industrial espionage, or general disruption to operating systems. Ensuring the soundness of these systems will be a top priority for organizations in 2020, particularly as they scale.
Q: Will consumers’ sustainability concerns affect manufacturing processes?
A: Consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious than ever, including where and how their products are made, with an increased focus on the sustainability and ethics behind what they buy. In the coming year, in addition to brands, manufacturers will be held accountable for the environmental impact of the product created and resources used. By leveraging IoT and AI, manufacturers need to future proof themselves by approaching their operations with transparency, when it comes to public opinion, regulatory compliance and the environmental impact of their operations.
Globally speaking, regardless of industry, the key priorities for any manufacturer are quality, flexibility and agility. There is increasing awareness around traceability and responsibility, meaning manufacturers will soon be held to a higher ethical expectation, one that they are perhaps unprepared for, a challenge that will need to be overcome, while still maintaining the same high standard of product and services quality.