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A return to growth in 2017 is one of top 7 automation trends

30 January, 2017

Following two years of contraction, the global automation market will return to growth this year, according to the market analyst, IHS Markit, which has published a list of what it thinks will be the top seven manufacturing trends during 2017.

The company’s manufacturing technology analysts have given their predictions for the global manufacturing technology market in a new White Paper. The trends (in no particular order) are:

1: The global automation market will grow, despite headwinds

The global industrial automation equipment (IAE) market will grow by about 1.5% in 2017, following a “disappointing” 2016 in which revenues declined for many equipment suppliers, and investment was uncertain in numerous end-markets.

While growth prospects will vary by sector, the 2017 return to growth will take place despite continuing headwinds, mainly in the form of low oil prices as well as a reduction in the sales of heavy machinery.

2: Remote cloud-based analytics will shift to local and edge computing

During 2016, many cloud platforms were announced or released to support the Internet of Things (IoT) in manufacturing. While the remote cloud can offer significant advantages in terms of scalability and cost, concerns about cyber-security caused hesitancy among end-users.

IHS predicts that, as a result, in-house cloud systems and “edge” analytics will expand during 2017. The continuing education of the market will also result in companies becoming more confident in the advantages and benefits that the remote cloud can provide.

3: Industrial automation will become more influential in outsourced or relocated manufacturing

Since 2014, changes in currency exchange rates, shipping costs, and the questionable longevity of proposed and existing trade agreements, have together weakened once-solid justifications for offshoring factories – at least for the time being.

During 2017, IHS expects more vendors to choose to invest in automation in the US in an effort to leverage tax incentives and a skilled workforce, rather than in offshoring production.

An IHS survey has revealed where industrial companies are using big data analytics, and how they expect to be using the technology in 2020
Source: IHS Markit

4: Software partners will be a battleground

While partnerships are one route that companies can follow to bring together IT and OT expertise, a handful of automation vendors last year acquired software vendors to achieve this need.

IHS expects to see an acceleration in acquisitions and partnerships during 2017, as automation companies fight over and target software vendors that could expand their smart manufacturing portfolios.

5: Capital equipment markets will consolidate

2017 will be a year of increased market consolidation across several equipment markets, such as those for motors, generators, turbines and generator sets.

For market-leaders, maintaining – or even expanding – their market shares will remain a high priority, as market growth in 2017 is expected to remain subdued.

6: Connectivity standards will prevail

With continuing pressure from end-users, and opportunities for increased connectivity through industrial-IoT-based systems, new possibilities for standardised communications have come about.

The prevalence of OPC-UA (Open Platform Communications Unified Architecture) together with the release of TSN (Time-Sensitive Networking) standards will bring further standardisation of connectivity during 2017.

7: Artificial intelligence (AI) will ramp up on the factory floor

Robots with improved connectivity and sensing capabilities will continue to lead advances in smart manufacturing during 2017. With the further development of AI, industrial robots will become more intelligent, and able to perceive, learn and make decisions on their own.

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