Digitalization Driving Manufacturing to New Heights

Digitalization Driving Manufacturing to New Heights
Digitalization Driving Manufacturing to New Heights
As we enter the new decade, innovative manufacturing and process companies worldwide are automating and digitizing with the aim to be more competitive. By leveraging disruptive innovations and technological developments, these manufacturers are positioning themselves to become industry leaders—creating new markets and increasing market share—while those who lag behind risk their own competitive positions. I have repeated many times the importance of learning from lessons of the past, since new transformative technology and methods need to be adopted by manufacturers to remain viable, competitive and profitable.

External Technology Drives Industrial Change

External technology developments, including open software, IoT, consumer electronics, and communications are combining with new architectural thinking. The accelerated rate of adoption and application of this combination have become a significant change agent for industrial automation.
Over the years, industrial automation industry advancements primarily have been driven by the application of new technology developed outside of the industry. That is still true today. Ethernet, PCs, Windows software, server virtualization, WiFi, Wireless Personal Area Network 802.15.4 (ISA100, WirelessHART, ZigBee), and cloud computing have all developed outside the automation industry and yet have had a profound impact in it.
Reliability, quality and availability of technologies need to be proven before they are adopted in mission-critical applications, such as in industrial controls and automation. In 2020-2021, new technology is advancing at a much higher rate and reliability is significantly higher, making many of these new solutions suitable for industrial automation applications. The application of new technology for consumer electronics ( i.e. smartphones; personal fitness trackers), mobile (i.e. truck tracking; driver assist) and medical devices has demanded all of high quality, reliability, availability, and durability and this has been shortening the time that new technology has needed in order to become suitable for industrial control and automation applications.

Yet, the influx of new technology continues to create a tension between the status quo and change in the industry. In the past, for example, traditional automation suppliers initially fought against the use of Microsoft Windows and Ethernet networks but eventually adopted these technologies.

These technologies have enabled a rapid digitalization for many organizations in the manufacturing industry. Driven by a clear trend of integrating industrial automation into the entire business information and computer architecture, this integrated and digitized environment is enabling enhanced competitiveness. Technology is finally providing the means for manufacturing companies to achieve highly efficient, synchronized production as a holistic enterprise rather than a collection of functional silos and this is driving the integration of automation, IT, and OT.

The accelerated digital revolution of manufacturing and process business has seen many organizational functions being digitized and integrated including:
  • Accounting
  • Supply chain
  • Human resources
  • Procurement
  • Customer services
  • Business intelligence
  • Distribution management
Manufacturing and production companies are realizing digitalization requires structure, organizational changes, and integration of information technology (IT), operations technology (OT) and automation technology.

This article is part of Bill Lydon’s Top Trends, his Automation & Control Trends Report for 2020-2021. Download the full report here

About The Author

Lydon brings more than 10 years of writing and editing expertise to, plus more than 25 years of experience designing and applying technology in the automation and controls industry. Lydon started his career as a designer of computer-based machine tool controls; in other positions, he applied programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and process control technology. In addition to working at various large companies (e.g., Sundstrand, Johnson Controls, and Wago), Lydon served a two-year stint as part of a five-person task group, where he designed controls, automation systems, and software for chiller and boiler plant optimization. He was also a product manager for a multimillion-dollar controls and automation product line and president of an industrial control software company.

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