Manufacturing Technology Transformation
Digitalization will accelerate, pushing manufacturers to transform and enabling innovation

Whether it is consumer and commercial tech moving onto the production floor or into the field, or rapid advances in artificial intelligence and cyber-physical systems, the digital transformation of industry will accelerate.  

Industrial operations are experiencing a massive shift toward digitalization made possible through multivendor open solutions that enable efficient and frictionless integration. Cyber-physical systems involve transdisciplinary approaches, merging the theory of cybernetics, mechatronics, design, and process science. Examples of cyber-physical systems include industrial control systems, smart grids, autonomous vehicles, and other targets of Industry 4.0. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) and commercial-technology devices such as smartphones are driving down the cost of these technologies, creating opportunities for component application in manufacturing control and automation. Controls and automation previously done by programmable logic controllers, distributed control systems, and other dedicated controllers is being replaced by edge and embedded computing.  

Demand for greater customization of products and processes is pressuring the development of faster and more adaptable production environments incorporating 3D printing, robotics, collaborative robots, and mechatronics. 

By Bill Lydon, Contributing Editor 

Key Elements and Drivers

  • Make to-order manufacturing and demand for customized products 
  • Real-time digital integration, sensor to enterprise 
  • Communications flexibility, including wired Ethernet and wireless (e.g., Wi-Fi, 5G, Bluetooth) 
  • Increasingly intelligent robots and collaborative robots 
  • Subject-matter experts empowered by no-code programming 
  • Multivendor integrated systems and open standards 

Industry Impact

  • Manufacturing business and production integration and digitalization required to be competitive 
  • Competition will come from a widening base including worldwide and small/medium enterprise manufacturers 
  • Because developing economies will leverage the latest technologies, established organizations need to rethink manufacturing automation investment strategies 


For ISA Members and Leaders

  • Understanding of and leadership participation in evolving world standards  
  • Educate manufacturing general management and automation professionals about integration of business systems, operations, and automation  
  • Educate manufacturing general management and automation professionals about investment analysis 
  • Training for the application of analytics and data science concepts as functional building blocks 
  • Automation certification programs elevating the profession 


Articles and Resources

Developing Industrial Machine Learning Projects: 3 Common Mistakes to Avoid

ISA Interchange Blog - 21 July 2020

This new computational paradigm significantly changes our way of solving everyday problems and opens a big a range of opportunities in all fields of study. In the past few years, machine learning has been used widely, including in the industrial sector. Despite this wide scope and having many great professionals working in this field, some common mistakes have been observed (and should be avoided) in industrial project development. 

Read more

An Introduction to Industrial Artificial Intelligence

InTech Magazine - July/August 2020

There is no escaping the term artificial intelligence (AI) today. It perpetuates the media, pop culture, and industry.We broadly define AI as a discipline that uses computer science and statistics to create systems that perceive, understand, and act in a manner similar to human intelligence. The field of AI covers a variety of technologies leveraging a multitude of data science techniques capable of “learning” to enable this intelligence. In this article we will cover several types of AI, dispel common misconceptions, and dive into more specific real-world industrial applications with future guidance.

Read more

Edge Analytics Speed Optimization Cycle Times

InTech Magazine - July/August 2020

Most discrete part manufacturers are continually questing for ways to improve productivity. While some may follow an approach based on gut feel and instinct, it is more constructive to base operational improvement efforts on hard facts. Attainment of this goal is often hindered, however, by a lack of timely data sourced from field instruments, machines, and automation systems.

Read more

With Many Automation Professionals Working from Home, Cybersecurity Exposure Is Rising

Building a Resilient World: Practical Automation Cybersecurity - 29 May 2020

One of the commonly targeted pathways into an industrial automation and control system (IACS) is through compromised remote access such as virtual private networks (VPNs) and remote desktop protocol (RDP). During the stay-at-home orders and other self-quarantining measures around the globe to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, many automation engineers for industrial facilities have increased their use of remote connections to provide support for their sites from home. Remote access has allowed for essential support to maintain the operations for critical facilities, but also results in increased cybersecurity exposure for IACS.

Read more

Collaborative Robots Save Production Costs

InTech Magazine - May/June 2020

Jim Lee, Tool Gauge general manager, faces the stark realities of doing business in a global market. Even though the company is close to many of its customers in the Pacific Northwest, their customers can do business anywhere in the world, including in much lower-cost labor markets. It became clear to the company that the way to compete in a global market is more automation to improve efficiency and quality and to add more value. The company’s fixed-price contracts can extend for five to seven years, without the ability to renegotiate even if labor costs increase. Tool Gauge needed to build in efficiencies and found cobots were the perfect solution.

Read more

Digitalization: Time for Some Straight Talk in the OT/ICS Community

Building a Resilient World: Practical Automation Cybersecurity - 24 March 2020

Digitalization is not a new topic. It’s been more than an idea for several years now. Whether it is specifically called Digitalization, Industry 4.0, Smart Plants/Facilities/Cities, or discussed in terms of the enabling technologies, such as industrial internet of things (IIoT) devices, 5G wireless communications, or Big Data isn’t really important. What is important are what is driving it, the implications (both positive and potentially negative), and what the OT/ICS (operational technology and industrial control systems) community should be doing about it.

Read more

Leveraging Technology to Work in the Age of Uncertainty

ISA Interchange Blog - 18 March 2020

Globalization has been a very successful strategy for many businesses. Distributing the supply chain across the world and capitalizing on lower-cost locations has helped improve productivity and reduce costs.

When major disasters or emergencies happen, organizations may need to put into play their emergency response or continuity of operations plans. In recent years, we’ve seen major flooding, earthquakes, and extensive wildfires disrupt business. Pandemics, though, are on an entirely different level of disruption. While organizations may be able to move parts of their supply chain out of affected areas, the affected area in a pandemic is, by definition, something that covers multiple continents.

Read more

Cybersecurity is a Business Imperative (Infographic)

ISA Interchange Blog - 11 March 2020

For most people close to the OT cybersecurity world, it’s beyond obvious that industrial cybersecurity has a direct and significant impact on business decisions, specifically when it comes to risk assessment and management.  

For some who don’t see the statistics every day and aren’t on the front lines of working on solutions to these complex challenges, it isn’t so obvious. Perhaps it’s seen as a “plant floor problem” or an IT initiative rather than an integral part of an organization’s DNA, like your approach to safety or your commitment to sustainability.  

Read more

What is a Digital Twin?

ISA Interchange Blog - 4 March 2020

If you haven’t heard the term “digital twin,” you’ve been living under a digital rock. The technology has also been referred to as virtual prototyping, hybrid twin technology, virtual twin, and digital asset management. With an estimated 25 billion global sensors being brought online by 2021, MIT Sloan Management Review calls digital twin technology "an innovation game changer." 

So, what exactly is a digital twin, in the context of manufacturing automation?

Read more

Blurring the Boundaries Between Design and Automation

InTech Magazine - March/April 2020

Machine, station, line, and system development is usually sequential: Mechanical design, electrical design, and automation are performed one after the other. If a mistake is made anywhere in the development process and is not detected, the error costs grow substantially over the phase of development. Undetected errors can be expensive during commissioning.

Read more