Industry Technology Concerns Diverge

Aug. 30, 2016
Automation World readers across the discrete, batch and continuous processing industries have a clear difference of opinion when it comes to technology upgrades, the Internet of Things and cybersecurity.

A recent survey of Automation World readers was conducted to gauge perceptions about several aspects related to automation buying preferences and behaviors. The survey was conducted for our advertising clients, but the results revealed some interesting insights for our end-user readers as well. The findings most relevant to our audience relate to some notable response differentiations between IT and non-IT (i.e., production/operations) respondents. There were also findings of note related to responses from different industry segments (i.e., discrete manufacturing, batch manufacturing, and continuous process).

In this article, I’ll focus on the differences in responses across industries. I compare the differences between IT and non-IT respondents here.

Unsurprisingly, most of our readers—regardless of the industry sector in which they work—responded in a similar fashion about the issues the “keep them up at night.” On topics as diverse as quality, delivery, capacity, training, safety and supply chain, reader responses were comparable regardless of whether the respondent worked in a discrete industry such as automation or aerospace, a batch industry such as food and beverage or pharmaceutical, or a continuous process industry such as oil and gas or energy.

However, on the topics of technology upgrades, the Internet of Things and cybersecurity, a clear difference of opinion emerged.

Technology upgrades
In the oil and gas industry, technology upgrades have come front and center as a means to optimize production and save as much money as possible in the face of declining oil prices. And in the automotive sector—as an example of the discrete industries—shrinking profit margins and growing customer demands for the incorporation of new connected technologies and custom options in their cars are driving a focus on technology upgrades. As a result, 25 percent of continuous process readers and 21 percent of discrete manufacturing readers cited technology upgrades as an issue that concerns them. In contrast, only 12 percent of readers in the batch industries said the same. With prices more stable and fewer customization options in batch—as compared to the process and discrete industries, respectively—technology upgrades apparently don’t carry the same concern for batch industry professionals when compared to their peers in other industries.

As with technology upgrades, when it comes to cybersecurity the continuous process and discrete industries are closely aligned. Thirteen percent of respondents in each of these industries cited cybersecurity as a concern. However, only five percent of batch industry respondents were similarly concerned. Though the stakes are certainly high for the batch industry when it comes to a cybersecurity incident, the stakes are clearly much higher for, say, an oil and gas operation. Significant death, destruction and environmental catastrophes could result from a control system security breach in many of the continuous process industries.

Internet of Things
It’s been the trend to beat all trends across industry for the past few years. And though our readers are clearly highly interested in the topic (judging by traffic to any Internet of Things-related content posted on our site), they are clearly not worried about it either. Of the discrete and batch industry respondents to our survey, only 6 percent and 8 percent, respectively, noted any significant concern about the Internet of Things (IoT). And the continuous process industry is even less concerned about it—0 percent of our readers in continuous process noted any worry about IoT. Maybe its because they’ve been deploying remote access and wireless monitoring—key aspects of most IoT projects—for decades?

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