The automation Industry is driven by change and innovation, and we don’t expect 2023 to be any different. In this column, I’ll highlight three areas in which we expect to see an uptick in adoption and exploration.
Plant floor networks
In many manufacturing sites, the plant floor network has been iteratively built over time. As the plant expanded, more devices became networked, edge devices increased, and the network expanded and changed. In many instances this expansion was done to meet an immediate need, not necessarily to prepare the network for the future.
This has led to disjointed infrastructures and network areas that lack cohesion. As many clients look to reconcile their infrastructure with something like the Purdue model or the hub-and-spoke model of a unified namespace, the task might seem daunting. But procrastination only makes the problems worse. We have found that a thoughtful and iterative approach to plant floor network updates will yield lasting benefits for the facility and teams relying on the connectivity and the data such connectivity can provide.
Upgrades to legacy systems are familiar territory, but with new and additional pressures. In the past, the primary drivers of these migrations centered around parts availability, technological improvements, and cost of maintenance. Recent supply chain issues and reactionary stockpiling has only served to lengthen lead times and dwindled available stock, intensifying these drivers.
This comes on top of increased cybersecurity and infrastructure security awareness. Legacy equipment can expose attack vectors that are not eliminated by air gapping alone. Shared logins and passwords create risks and additional attack vectors while decreasing operational intelligence about who is making what changes and when. In some regulated Industries, these changes are being driven by regulatory findings and audit results, but we expect more companies outside of such industries to examine their aging plant floor network with an eye toward modernization.
New tech exploration
A focus on driving IT and OT (operations technology) improvements has given manufacturers plenty of avenues for exploration. In our client base we have seen an uptick in feasibility studies geared towards exploring new technologies and how they can be implemented to drive efficiencies at a corporate level.
Concepts like unified namespaces, edge devices, complete cloud deployments, process analytics, and artificial intelligence concepts like machine learning will all be at the forefront for industry in 2023. Many early adopters are well into the optimization stage of these concepts and as they realize the benefits and cost savings, more risk adverse manufacturers will look to explore the possibilities in their own ecosystems.
Looking back, we see 2022 as being a year of adaptation for industry. Adaptation to new technologies, team layouts, supply chain hurdles, and work environments. We feel 2023 will further drive this growth as industry looks to tackle whatever hurdle comes next. Overall, we feel 2023 will be a big year in for industry’s digitalization journey.
Will Aja is Vice President Customer Operations at Panacea Technologies, a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). For more information about Panacea, visit its profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.