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Rockwell Automation 2020 Predictions: Digital Transformation, AR Workforce, and Automated OT Discovery Mature

VMblog Predictions 2020 

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2020.  Read them in this 12th annual series exclusive.

By Keith Higgins, Vice President of Digital Transformation, Rockwell Automation

2020 Trends in Manufacturing: Digital Transformation, AR Workforce, and Automated OT Discovery Mature

2019 marked a critical inflexion point for wide scale roll out of digital transformation via Industrial IoT (IIoT) tools in the manufacturing segment. Now, many companies are now looking to benchmark their state of digital operations and progress towards their digital transformation goals. As digital journeys mature, keep an eye on the following industry trends:

Scale: The magic word for digital transformation in 2020

In 2019, we saw a 400% growth in digital transformation projects moving through the post-implementation stage (per a recent Rockwell study). The maturation of digitization projects will continue throughout 2020, and with this trend, the industry will evolve from exploring the primary benefits of data-driven solutions to understanding how these projects can be used as a resource to help scale smart factory initiatives.

Digital transformation has reached its inflection point. As organizations move their initiatives from project roll-out to continuous process improvement in 2020, scaling becomes a key topic of conversation. Specifically, the industry will tackle the following challenges as digital business strategies scale and mature:

  • High volumes of industrial infrastructure becoming integrated/connected
  • Orchestrating multisite roll-outs
  • Tighter OT/IT integration as more OT infrastructure (devices, production lines, plants) are tied into digital transformation initiatives

The AR workforce arrives: Enabling the "$6 Million Man" of Manufacturing

One of the main concerns for industrial organizations in 2019 was the growing skills shortage and the need for employee cross-training. As a potential solution, employers looked to modernized technology initiatives, such as augmented reality (AR), enabled by digital transformation, to gain an advantage in recruiting, training, and employee development.

For example, novice workers can use augmented and mixed reality headsets for training in a digital environment to learn how to handle problems to develop specific skill sets in the industrial environment with high precision and little training before they're ever exposed to them, such as increased line speed, quality issues, machinery downtime, and hazardous conditions.

In previous years, these solutions were still considered mostly hypothetical, yet in 2020, we will see industrial organizations implement fully deployed AR training initiatives. This shift to "bionic" workers will combine machine and human capabilities to not only increase productivity, tighten production schedules, maximize revenue and protect workers from the injuries associated with repetitive physical tasks, but also develop and enhance human capital from generation to generation via more efficient training.

OT discovery becomes automated

Smart manufacturing requires convergence between IT and OT data to drive visibility, collaboration, and efficiency within plants and facilities and across operations. However, two decades after automation networks on the plant floor became ubiquitous, it's still generally true that information accessibility between plant floor devices (OT) - and the people and systems that can create new value from them (IT) - proves to be a significant challenge.

To remove the complexity and domain expertise required to access plant floor devices and systems, manufacturers are turning to auto-discovery tools that identify assets, collect and integrate data with full OT context, and produce models fully shareable with IT systems. By connecting existing OT infrastructure to smart factory networks and IT initiatives, and continuously generating relevant data insights and measurements, auto-discovery capabilities reduce the technical knowledge and time needed by OT teams to map industrial infrastructure and improve operational efficiency.

Gartner predicts that 50% of OT providers will partner with IT-centric providers for IoT offerings over the next year. Indeed, in 2020, effective OT/IT integration will become key to accelerating innovation and achieving productivity gains at digital transformation scale.


About the Author

Keith Higgins 

Keith Higgins is the Vice President of Marketing, Digital Transformation and Industrial IoT at Rockwell Automation. He brings over 20 years of experience in marketing to the industrial leader. Prior to joining Rockwell, Keith served as VP of Marketing at FogHorn, an edge computing solution provider, and Chief Marketing Officer at RiskVision, a risk intelligence solution acquired by Resolver.
Published Tuesday, February 04, 2020 7:15 AM by David Marshall
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