Top Tens and Top Twenties of the past or future year have never been my favorites. However, one can perceive trends and strain out little nuggets of gold by scanning several. Especially industrial taken broadly along with Internet of Things (IoT) and other current digital trends. I just had an interesting chat with Sean Riley, Global Director of Manufacturing and Transportation for Software AG, who released his Top Ten for 2020.

Following are his ideas interspersed with a few of my comments.

Cost Management Becomes Exceptional

As uncertainty enters the global manufacturing outlook, enterprises will become myopically focused on cost reductions. This will drive organizations to find more efficient methods of providing IT support, leveraging supplier ecosystems and simplifying value chains. [GM-much of my early work was in cost management/reduction; this is a never-ending challenge in manufacturing; however, tools continue to evolve giving us more and better solutions.]

A Blurred Line Between Products & Services

Manufacturers continue their product innovation quest and more manufacturers will begin focusing on how to deliver products as a service. The Manufacturers that have already created smart products and have elevated service levels will now begin to work out the financing considerations needed to shift from a sales based to a usage based revenue model. [GM-This is a trend most likely still in its infancy, or maybe toddler-hood; we see new examples sprouting monthly.]

Moving To Redefine Cost Models To Match Future Revenue Streams

Anticipating the shift to continual revenue streams, manufacturers will seek to shift costs to be incurred in a similar manner. This will be initially seen as a continued push to subscription based IT applications. While much progress has already been made, a larger focus will occur. [GM-I like his idea here of balancing capital versus expense budgets, continually finding the best fund source for shifting costs.]

IT Focuses on Rapid Support for Growth

The lines between business and IT users become blurred as no-code applications allow for business users to create integration services. IT professionals will leverage DevOps & Agile methodologies alongside of microservices and containers to rapidly develop applications that are able to generate incremental growth as requested by business users. This will be critical to the near term success for manufacturers, especially with economic headwinds that seem to be growing stronger. [GM-I didn’t ask about DevOps, but this idea is springing into the industrial space; cloud and software-as-a-service provide scalability both up and down for IT to balance costs and services.]

Industrial Self-Service Analytics Become Mission Critical

Industrie 4.0 / Smart Manufacturing initiatives continue to receive greater amounts of investment but in the near term, manufacturers will focus on unleashing the power of the data they already have. Historians, LIMS, CMMS’ have valuable data going to and in them and enabling production engineers to leverage that data rapidly is critical. Industrial Self-Service Analytics that allow production and maintenance professionals to leverage predictive analytics without IT assistance will sought as a powerful differentiating factor. [GM-we are beginning to see some cool no-programming tools to help managers get data access more quickly.]

Industrie 4.0 / Smart Manufacturing Initiatives Continue to Draw Investment

It’s no surprise that Manufacturers will continue to invest in Industrie 4.0 as the promises are great however, the scaled returns have not been realized and won’t be realized in the near term. The difficult of implementing these initiatives has surpassed manufacturers expectations for several reasons. First, traditional OT companies were trusted to deliver exceptional, open platforms and that wasn’t delivered. Secondly, collaboration efforts between IT & OT professionals proved to be more convoluted and difficult than expected. [GM-I’m thinking these ideas became overblown and complex, and that is not a good thing; to swallow the whole enchilada causes stomach pain.]

Artificial Intelligence Enters the Mix

AI won’t allow for users to sit back and relax while AI handles all of their tasks for them but it will make an appearance in back office tasks. Freight payment auditing, invoice payment and, in some select areas, chatbots will be the initial main stream uses of AI and will be seen as not becoming an anomaly but be understood to be more mainstream this year. [GM-I think still an idea looking for a problem; however some AI ideas are finding homes a little at a time.]

3D Printing Find New Uses

While this technology has steadily crept into production lines, the push towards usage based product pricing will have the technology move into after market services. Slow moving parts will be the first target for this technology which will help to free up much needed working capital to support financial transformation. [GM-watch for better machines holding tighter tolerances making the technology more useful.]

5G & Edge Analytics Enable New Possibilities

As Industrie 4.0 is continued to be pursued, Manufacturers will implement new initiatives that could not previously be realized without the high speed data transmission promises of 5G or the ability to conduct advanced analytics at the edge where production occurs. This will also provide manufacturers with new methods to securely implement Smart Manufacturing initiatives and in new locations that were not previously feasible due to connectivity issues. [GM-5G is still pretty much a dream, but there is great potential for some day.]

Security Still Remains a Critical Focus

With the increasing rate of IoT sensors, IT-OT convergence, the usage of API’s and the interconnectivity of ecosystems ensuring data security remains a top priority for manufacturers. As more data becomes more available, the need to increase levels of security becomes ever greater. [GM-ah, yes, security–a never-ending problem.]

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