Traditionally, manufacturing industries have seen information and communication technology (ICT) deployments limited to the irregular use of machine to machine (M2M) communications and cloud solutions. However, as the trend towards the development of fully automated plants continues, cloud adoption for core processes, cyber security efforts and the implementation of artificial intelligence are becoming increasingly important. Strong long-term prospects exist particularly for IT service, communication equipment, fixed network, and wireless network providers in the industrial automation space.
Growth in ICT spend for manufacturing, and energy and utilities sectors
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, ‘Connected Industry Insight Series: ICT Opportunities in the Global Smart Plants Market’, predicts that the manufacturing, and energy and utilities sectors will spend a combined total of €206.51 billion on ICT in 2019.
“The plant-floor is still dominated by fixed networks installed over industrial ethernet or fieldbus protocols for field-level networks,” said Frost & Sullivan Information & Communication Technologies Senior Research Analyst Shuba Ramkumar. “ICT vendors can contribute to the development of improved plant-floor communication systems in collaboration with automation vendors.”
However, the analyst firm estimates that revenue opportunities for mobile network operators (MNOs) will remain limited. The need for cellular connectivity services will be low when compared to fixed-line and short-range M2M services.
Bringing about fully automated plants
In order to bring the concept of smart plants to reality, working with industrial automation providers to design, integrate and implement fully automated plants based on manufacturer requirements will be a critical step. ICT vendors must work with other providers in the IT ecosystem to develop end-to-end services that include network equipment, connectivity, virtualisation, cloud-based software, data analytics and cyber security.
“Communication equipment vendors need to build comprehensive services which takes into consideration inputs from all stakeholders in the production process,” explained Ramkumar. “By leveraging partnerships with fixed line providers and IT solution providers, MNOs too can extend existing relationships with manufacturers beyond network provision to offer integrated solutions for the plant-floor and branch offices.”
By permitting collaborative manufacturing and real-time connectivity between the end consumer and the manufacturer, ICT providers will hasten plant-floor automation and help secure their place in the global smart plants space.