ISA Megatrends Predict Key Catalysts for the Future of Automation

ISA Megatrends Predict Key Catalysts for the Future of Automation
ISA Megatrends Predict Key Catalysts for the Future of Automation

Eighteenth-century Welsh mill owner and labor rights activist Robert Owen coined the phrase: “Eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest.” He was an early supporter of the 40-hour work week. In the 1800s, many people worked up to 100 hours per week. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that most industries had applied the 8-hour workday, but most laborers still had to work six days per week. Henry Ford decided to give his employees two days off, resulting in a 40-hour work week. In 1940, the 40-hour workweek became the law across the nation.

The ISA Megatrends Survey

The 40-hour work week is just one example of a megatrend that changed the working experience for millions of people during one of the industrial revolutions. Now, we are in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Industry 4.0, wherein traditional manufacturing and industrial practices are becoming increasing automated with smart technology.

The International Society for Automation’s (ISA) 75th Anniversary has inspired a look into the future at the megatrends that will drive the automation industry during the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The four megatrends identified: Workforce of the Future; Standards Under Pressure; Manufacturing Technology Transformation; and Environmental, Safety, and Security Evolutions.

Each ISA Megatrend encompasses societal, business and technology forces that are changing the face of automation. ISA is encouraging its members and customers to use these trends to spark conversation and change within their own companies. ISA is also asking for answers to a survey about such trends in local geographies or vertical markets. Here are some results of that survey.

Workforce of the Future

The increasingly common adoption of automation across the manufacturing industry is driving the need for knowledgeable personnel with practical thinking skills and manufacturing process expertise. According to the Megatrends Survey, more than 84% of respondents identified the trend of “’Knowledge workers’ who bring qualitative skills like thinking, listening, relating, and collaborating are becoming as important as professionals with expertise in math and engineering” as Significantly or Moderately Impactful. “Skills pertaining to human relationships must override technology, as current designers and developers seem to be putting too much emphasis on technology and not people,” one respondent noted.

Standards Under Pressure

Currently, manufacturers are working together to create global standards driven by IIoT and Industry 4.0. More than 68% of those surveyed indicated a positive response to the idea that “Standards-based, interoperable, open architect process automation systems are replacing proprietary systems and driving innovation.” One respondent added: “Open standards will allow contribution of different fields of knowledge to improve technology.”

Manufacturing Technology Transformation

Digitalization will only become more prominent, opening the door for manufacturers to further innovate, transforming the industry. For example, more than 61% of respondents said the “Remote management and operation of equipment” will have a “significant impact” on the industry. One respondent predicted that “Cost-effective and remotely supported products, resources & solutions with digitalization” will become more common.

Environmental, Safety, and Security Evolutions

Manufacturers will need to response to societal and business concerns related to cybercrime, worker safety, and sustainability. Nearly 78% of those surveys responded positively to the statement: “The need for an integrated cybersecurity approach, combining IT and OT, is being recognized and implemented.” One potential, related challenge to address will be “The desire for data to be easily accessible vs. the need for cybersecurity,” one respondent wrote.

Take the survey and contribute to the research

Continuing into 2021 and beyond, the ISA Megatrends project will continue to collect and share resources on the trends, disruptions, challenges, and solutions that are having and will have the greatest impact on industries and industrial professionals across the globe. You are invited to not only peruse but contribute to a growing collection of data surrounding the four megatrends that are and will continue to profoundly impact the world of automation.

“We are looking for your input on how these trends will impact asset owners, engineers, product and services suppliers, and the rest of the automation ecosystem,” the ISA website says. “We value your experiences and opinions on these important topics and will use your insight to reflect and inform the entire automation profession.”

About The Author

Melissa is the content editor at

Take the Survey

Did you enjoy this great article?

Check out our free e-newsletters to read more great articles..