2017: Predictions for Smart Manufacturers

The start of the new year brings new hope, new resolutions, and new predictions from the pundits. For the year 2017 and beyond, IDC FutureScape has published their vision, 10 Predictions for the Manufacturing Industry.

“It’s important to note that technology continues to reshape the relationship between business and IT for innovation and digital transformation,” says the document summary.  “Manufacturers want to work smarter using digital technologies in their products and processes and throughout the value chain.”

Of the ten predictions given, at least five of them involve or imply Industrial IoT and Industrie 4.0.  Three of these five promise to be beneficial, while the other two represent stumbling blocks that any alert C-level executive would do well to heed.


The proponents and early adopters of smart manufacturing have seen and expect to see more evidence of its benefits.  Among these benefits, here are three related to the IIoT that the IDC report predicts:

1. IT and OT integration will continue to provide advantages in efficiency and responsiveness within the organization.  By 2019, about 35% of large multinationals will be integrating their IT and OT systems at a significant level, and deriving those benefits.

2. Increased use of IIoT among as many as 75% of the world’s major manufacturers by 2019 will power real-time analytics, which in turn will drive predictive maintenance and similar initiatives.  As a result, these companies will reduce risk and bring their products to market more quickly.

3. Integration of supply chain, plant operations, and life-cycle management will offer gains in the overall value of their businesses for the 50% or so of manufacturers who are expected to be pursuing this goal by the end of 2020.  This integration will be made possible, to a greater or lesser extent, by the IIoT.

Stumbling Blocks

Offsetting these benefits, the IDC report foresees a few potential obstacles to unfettered growth and success through implementing the IIoT.  Understanding these predictions can be a first step towards addressing them:

1. An imbalanced approach will reduce ROI. Despite wide-scale adoption of smart manufacturing and IIoT initiatives, by the end of 2018 only as few as 30% of those investing in these technologies will be able to reap the full benefits.  Those few will be in this favorable position because while investing in IIoT, they were also actively keeping their related business models and technology up to date.  Rather than tacking on IIoT technologies at a superficial level, these are the ones who will grasp the deeper implications, and incorporate truly smart manufacturing.

2. Increased connectivity will demand a redesign of security architectures.  Most implementers of the IoT in the industrial space continue to pay lip service to security, while relying on architectures that are not secure by design.  The IDC predicts that by 2018 the number of interconnected devices, communication layers, and cloud ecosystems will have grown so large and complex that it will be painfully obvious that they simply cannot function in a robust and secure way, using traditional architectures.  We say, “Why wait?”  Using a secure-by-design approach now will pay off handsomely right away, as well as in the foreseeable future.