In 2022, the manufacturing industry unlocked a new level of flexibility and automation. Stratus’ Jason Andersen shares his predictions for the industry for this year.
The manufacturing industry saw unprecedented levels of flexibility in 2022 due to the convergence of OT and IT, a trend that isn’t expected to slow down in 2023.
Last year, we made a handful of predictions about IT and cybersecurity operations in the manufacturing industry â€“ some of which played out as we predicted, others of which have taken longer to really take hold. We predicted these two teams would work more closely together because, at the Edge, it won’t be siloed. However, that merge hasn’t progressed as quickly as we expected, as cybersecurity still tends to be in the hands of OT in manufacturing settings.Â
In addition, we believed that the lines between IT and OT at the Edge would become more blurred than in years past. This has come to fruition due to the increased adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT), which has created new roles. These new roles have created new responsibilities across the board, meeting the operational requirements while ensuring security, interoperability, and maintainability are in play. With that, the interest in advanced analytics is continuing to accelerate and is beginning to morph into the background of different solutions, confirming our 2022 prediction to be true.
In 2023, we predict that the industry will continue to progress and uncover new strategies to keep businesses flourishing in the new year.
Remote Monitoring and Hybrid Becoming the New Norm
Remote and hybrid operations, which were heavily adopted in 2020 due to COVID-19, have become a standard practice among many industries, manufacturing included, and will continue to be the standard way of work in 2023 as new technologies enable operators to do so.Â
Monitoring systems used for remote operations fuel the Industry 4.0 fire and allow organizations to have a clearer view of all parts of the operations processes. With human power, remote monitoring allows manufacturers to leverage a flatter, more agile architecture that Industry 4.0 espouses â€“ opening a new door to more remote capabilities. These systems also provide the ability to track, visualize and control facilities, assets, and environmental conditions without requiring anyone to be physically on-site, thanks to various technologies such as analytics, alarming, virtual private networks (VPN), and Edge Computing tools working in tandem from a remote location.
Adopting these remote monitoring and automation tools aid in lowering the overall operating costsâ€”which is especially attractive to companies as talks of a recession continue to loom. In addition, adopting remote monitoring helps with the hiring, recruitment, and retention of employees as it enables manufacturers at a local or plant-level facility to remotely drive operational efficiency and performance safely while freeing the limited personnel to focus on higher-value activities.Â
Even though full remote management has not yet been realized, in 2023, companies will get closer to making this a reality and maximizing their potential through remote environments.Â
Adoption of Containerization
Although the main priorities for new manufacturing buildouts are still cybersecurity, 5G wireless, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML), there is a lot of action in modernizing the existing applications that are driving current processes and will skyrocket in 2023 â€“ most notably containerization.Â
Containerization enables users to deploy multiple applications using the same operating system on a single virtual machine or server, versus virtualization, which enables users to run multiple operating systems on a single server. According toÂ IBMOpens a new window , 61% of container adopters report using containers in over 50% of new applications over the past two years, and 64% of adopters expect an increase of more than 50% in existing applications to be put into containers within the next two years.Â
In the shipping industry, there is a plan to make application updates and deploy them via containerization. Still, an uptick in networking, connectivity and orchestration is necessary to gain these advantages that containerization offers. Additionally, advanced Edge Computing platforms containing virtualization and containerization capabilities help rein in costs. These new requirements and updates will require more powerful solutions at the Edge. This new need allows IT to do more remotely, which helps Edge systems and devices maintain better. However, as we work toward full remote management, platforms powering these capabilities must be resilient to keep processes running and gain operators’ trust.Â Â
More Powerful, Efficient and Modern Automation
Today, most manufacturing companies have some degree of automation. As we enter 2023, we will continue to see an uptick in companies modernizing their processes to be more agile or efficient. According to GartnerOpens a new window , 80% of executives think automation can be applied to any business decision.Â
The obvious major benefit of implementing automationâ€”for any industry or applicationâ€”is reducing time spent on human labor. Automation in manufacturing settings is typically seen via robots, sensors, and in their information systems. Instead of eliminating the number of man-made tools required for production, automation is important as it knows how to handle information obtained from all parts of the production process.Â
When reviewing their automation processes, there are two big questions manufacturing companies need to answer, even if they already have automation already adopted in some capacity: is what I have healthy, and is what I have enough? This is due to the fragile automation infrastructure that has grown out of control over time, causing it to become unhealthy. Still, as automation gets smarter, it also becomes stronger.
In the factory where IoT has been realized, and automation is in process, production and operations equipment are connected to the internet, and all information is collected. Based on this information, the behavior of equipment and robots is adjusted to visualize and manage production. Modern smart factory automation accumulates and analyzes this information and provides feedback to the next production, creating a process in which the machines become more intelligent. With that, there has also been an evolution of many new capabilities in automation, such as cybersecurity and remote monitoring, that may be needed as the relationship between the company, workers, and the work itself evolve together.
As we enter 2023, it is clear that people and operations will continue to evolve parallelly and become more flexible compared to previous years. With more remote monitoring and centralization of IT and OT capabilities, companies can reach their full potential by taking stock of processes that can be performed remotely, deploying applications via containerization, and effectively automating operations. By doing so, 2023 will surely be a year of technological evolution.
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