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Rockwell Automation 2021 Predictions: Edge is the new cloud, digital twins' impact on manufacturing and more

vmblog 2021 prediction series 

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2021.  Read them in this 13th annual series exclusive.

Edge is the new cloud, digital twins' impact on manufacturing and more

By Keith Higgins, VP of Digital Transformation, Rockwell Automation

2020 marked a critical inflection point for the maturity of industrial digital transformation as a result of COVID-19, geopolitics, and a variety of other factors. According to Forrester, artificial intelligence (AI) and automation will continue to play a critical role in the manufacturing segment. Below are a few trends we can expect to see in 2021 as manufacturers use edge computing to enable real-time data processing, adopt digital twins to predict challenges, and evolve jobs with augmented reality (AR) training.

Edge is the new cloud

For companies scaling smart factory initiatives in 2021, real-time availability of mission-critical workloads will be necessary to ensure business outcomes. Edge computing will complement existing cloud infrastructure by enabling real-time data processing where the work takes place (e.g., motors, pumps, generator, or other sensors). Implementing integrated analytics from the edge to the cloud will help these enterprises maximize the value of investments in digital systems.

The industry will continue to move toward more decentralized compute environments, and the edge will add significant value to digital transformation initiatives. By integrating edge functionalities with existing cloud infrastructure, organizations will worry less about logistical IT considerations and, instead, focus on rethinking what's possible in a smart machine: What questions can it answer faster? What new problems can it solve? How can it protect operations better? Analysts note that by 2022, 99% of industrial enterprises will utilize edge computing for this reason.

Digital twins save $1 trillion in manufacturing costs

Over the next 12 months, by interconnecting business systems via digital thread, organizations will virtually commission new production lines. Using digital twins, manufacturers will run machines virtually before parts are ordered, discover control issues before support staff goes on-site, predict future performance challenges/opportunity, simulate line changes to keep up with ever-changing customer demands and train new staff on systems without consequence. Gartner estimates that businesses will save US$1 trillion each year in asset maintenance by using IoT through digital twins. IDC suggests that 30% of Global 2000 companies will be using data from digital twins of IoT connected products and assets to improve product innovation success rates and organizational productivity, achieving gains of up to 25%. In 2021, organizations will use digital twins, enabled by digital thread, to solve lifecycle challenges in the digital world before they turn into "if only" moments in the real world, lowering overall manufacturing costs and increasing factory productivity.

Pandemic promotes AR training as the new standard for a distributed workforce

About 70% of manufacturers say the biggest impacts of robotics on the workforce in the next five years will be an increased need for talent to manage in a more automated, flexible production environment and the opening of new jobs to engineer robotics and their operating systems. Since on the job training is no longer possible due to social distancing requirements, manufacturers will fill the gap with remote training tools, such as augmented reality (AR) and 3D-based work instructions, to allow workers to train with experts remotely and optimize capture and delivery. Using advanced technologies to train workers will enable them to analyze performance in real-time, troubleshoot issues more quickly, improve productivity, and avoid significant downtime for unforeseen repairs. This will ultimately make the manufacturing workforce more connected and data-driven, narrowing the skills gap while avoiding safety and compliance risks.


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 Friday, December 18, 2020 10:49 AM by David Marshall
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