Report finds digital solutions crucial to IIoT growth

22nd May 2017
Alice Matthews

Due to the need for capital efficiency, asset efficiency and resource efficiency, tectonic shifts are underway across process and discrete industries. These trends are nurturing the growth of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Industry 4.0. The convergence of algorithms, cloud, data, devices and networks drive a creative destruction and expansion of traditional business models. Further, the directional shift from CAPEX ◇ OPEX cycles will see the market focus more on brownfield assets/modernisation-driven projects in short-term.

The emergence of new business and operational models mandates solution providers to steer towards digital solutions, as the need for outcomes and prescriptive insights grows. Also, another key trend in the market is the industry preference towards solution integration, enterprise-scale contextualisation of insights and multi-site deployments. All of this steer an intense collaboration between IT (Information Technology) and OT (Operational Technology), which flattens out the traditional layered hierarchical architectures present in process and discrete industries. The flattening of automation architectures has led to the emergence of several digital industrial platform offerings such as Ability from ABB, Mindsphere from Siemens, PlantWeb Digital Ecosystem from Emerson, Predix from GE Digital, Lumada from Hitachi Corporation, Leonardo from SAP AG, Watson from IBM, to name a few.

“Digital industrial platforms will emerge as the cornerstone to unlock value and generate alternative revenue monetisation streams from exiting products and solutions across the automation solutions market,” said Frost & Sullivan Industrial Automation & Process Control Research Analyst Ticaram Ramakrishnan. “Further, OT vendors’ development of digital solutions, will compete with traditional IT majors as value-levers move from hardware to software and outcome-based services.”

Further, Frost & Sullivan’s Consulting Manager Muthuraman 'Ram' Ramasamy stated: “2017 and beyond will be the era of industrials: every industry and end-market out there will be disrupted by digital in one form or the other. As fear, uncertainty and quest for sustainable performance grips the industry’s ecosystem, solution providers will diversify their focus from energy-centric value-chains to steady-growth hybrid industries, such as food and beverages and lifesciences.” Also, “Traditional automation companies will look to re-position and re-brand themselves in order to better serve customer pressure points. The race to become the next anchor for industrial markets has truly begun.”

Global Automation Industry Outlook, 2017, is part of Frost & Sullivan’s Industrial Automation & Process Control Growth Partnership subscription. The study examines the market for distributed control system (DCS), programmable logic controller (PLC), supervisory control and data acquisition system (SCADA), process safety system, machine safety systems, human-machine interface (HMI), variable frequency drive (VFD), operator training simulators (OTS), general motion control (GMC), sensors and transmitters, flowmeters, manufacturing execution systems (MES), enterprise asset management (EAM), and product lifecycle management (PLM) across key process and discrete industries, such as power, oil and gas, chemicals and petrochemicals, food and beverage, aerospace and defence, and automotive.

A major restraint to the global automation industry was the weakening of investments in the oil and gas segment. With oil prices recovering from late 2016, cautious optimism is obvious in most process industries, and investments are expected to see positive growth in the second half of 2017.

Emerging automation market themes for the next two to three years include:

  • Plant-floor analytics;
  • Convergence of sensing, control, and information platforms;
  • Collaborative robotics in production;
  • Adaptive OT cybersecurity for industrial networks;
  • Augmented reality on the shop floor;
  • Hybridised machines to unlock the benefits of both additive and subtractive manufacturing;
  • Digital twins, or software replication of physical assets, to plan for equipment maintenance and prevent unplanned downtime;
  • Edge analytics and intelligence that can filter out non-critical data;

While today’s market is more about selling additional services to one’s captive installed base, the market will progressively reach a stage wherein inter-platform (between various digital industrial platforms) collaboration will be mandated by end-users. However, the flip side to this will be the constant technology evolution to create the best algorithms in order to drive differentiated insights, while making prudent inroads into a competitor’s installed base.

“In an uncertain global market, end users are looking for open, interoperable, and standards-based system architectures that will increase system flexibility and open up opportunities for innovative applications,” noted Ramakrishnan. “Automation solution providers that can deliver this competitive edge to customers will be the most successful.”

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