Key Technology Trends in Digital TransformationBy Eduardo Amaro | Mon, 12/20/2021 - 10:31
Technology trends were strongly influenced by the pandemic, which shifted market demand more abruptly than any single event that we have ever witnessed. This drastically impacted the need for companies to respond quickly and become agile, creating both business resilience and opportunities to thrive in this reconnecting world, otherwise known as the new normal. As economies reopened, manufacturers and processors had to deal with the new reality, running their operations remotely with employees working from home. The digital transformation accelerated the ability to break physical and organizational boundaries to engage a real-time workforce, connect teams, and drive collaboration, but also put companies under pressure to manage their supply chains to maintain their integrity and flexibility to respond to market demand shifts, doing this from remote locations with the tools to monitor uptime with real-time visibility and control. There are new methodologies required for the new normal, driven by the need to protect against failures, ensure product fulfillment, protect personnel, and all while leveraging enhanced security architectures.
Besides this, we have found that many business drivers for many companies changed during the pandemic, bringing additional challenges, such as the need to reduce go-to-market and to have machine flexibility to produce new products with the same installed base, for example.
From Tech Convergence to Tech Fusion
The convergence of information technology and operations technology (IT/OT convergence) is progressing rapidly as industrial organizations realize it is key for a successful digital transformation. Connectivity and convergence between IT and OT are essential for businesses to compete. Manufacturers and other industrial organizations today face the increasing demand for tighter integration and more information. In response, they have started to leverage Industrial IoT and Industry 4.0 technology and approaches, including 5G networking, cloud and edge computing, additive manufacturing, advanced analytics, digital twins, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and other emerging technologies.
Increasingly IT/OT convergence includes IT/OT cybersecurity, which helps fill existing security gaps and ensures consistent security levels across the enterprise.
During many visits with customers in Mexico, I have found that even though these digitalization needs are real, and may solve very specific and real problems, it is imperative to do our homework as technology suppliers and guide our customers with a specific, simplified, customized approach on how this technology adoption could be done, step by step, to produce quick results that can incentivize the continuity of a digitalization roadmap. This part is key.
Rather than a trend, I strongly believe that this convergence between IT and OT, IT cybersecurity and OT cybersecurity, power and automation will become permanent, representing a true technology fusion. During 2021, automation companies looked for the introduction of innovative solutions where these technologies have solved tangible problems, allowing them to be faster, more effective and predictable.
Edge Computing Becoming Edge Automation
Edge computing platforms and applications continue to grow, but these often require support from corporate IT personnel with specialized skills to install, program, operate, and support them. This has led to the development of edge automation platforms designed to provide the full capabilities and benefits of computing at the edge. These capabilities include gathering, analyzing, processing, and storing data locally in real time at or close to the point that the data is gathered. The key difference is that personnel without specific IT skills will be able support these new edge automation platforms
Edge automation platforms are critically important because edge computing platforms used in industrial processing and manufacturing applications are typically under the authority of the OT group: the same people who install, program, operate, and service automation equipment, such as programmable logic controllers (PLC), programmable automation controllers (PAC), distributed control systems (DCS), sensors, and other instrumentation. This creates tremendous savings in time and personnel costs. Furthermore, the edge automation platform is designed to run continuously without the need for specialized on-site or remote IT support.
In general terms, I would like to conclude by saying that futuristic technology solutions are now helping manufacturers and other industrial and infrastructure-related organizations meet today’s real-world business challenges. You can learn more about how Rockwell Automation helps to create an ecosystem that simplifies the digital transformation process to align technology with real business needs, along with a wise utilization of resources and budget. In other words, we can help customers to make digitalization decisions with a real, strategic, outcome-based approach.
About Rockwell Automation
Rockwell Automation, Inc. (NYSE: ROK), is a global leader in industrial automation and digital transformation. We connect the imaginations of people with the potential of technology to expand what is humanly possible, making the world more productive and more sustainable. Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Rockwell Automation employs approximately 24,000 problem solvers dedicated to our customers in more than 100 countries. To learn more about how we are bringing The Connected Enterprise to life across industrial enterprises, visit: www.rockwellautomation.com