Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Top 5 in 2013

January 24, 2013
By Alison Dunn

Manufacturing AUTOMATION asked a handful of industry experts to name the top five technologies and trends that Canadian manufacturers should watch out for in 2013 and beyond. Cloud computing was a top choice by our experts this year, followed by mobile applications and technology, security, wireless and much more. Read on to learn more.


Jim Pinto



Jim Pinto is an internationally renowned speaker on technology futures, an automation industry writer and a commentator. Sign up for his monthly enewsletter, read his recent columns and read excerpts from his books, Pinto’s Points and Automation Unplugged, at


1. Automation and the Cloud: Cloud-computing technology is now at a maturing phase. Development of both private and public cloud systems has become a priority across a broad spectrum of commercial suppliers and users. Cloud services are becoming inexpensive and widely available, and enterprises can move or migrate workloads within and between their own data centres. Data centre management still remains somewhat manual, but automated systems are becoming available to dynamically allocate resources for optimization in a wide range of applications.

2. Internet of Things (IoT): The Internet of Things (IoT) is about to transform the next decade. Literally everything will be connected to everything. Some estimate that 50 billion devices will be IoT-connected by 2020. The clock on the connected device transition is ticking very loudly. IoT, also called “pervasive Internet,” will start to spread in factories and industrial plants. Industrial I/O products will become increasingly more autonomous in functionality, with vastly more robust operation in systems that include literally millions of I/O points.

3. Thin Computing: With all of the failure-prone components in traditional PCs, plus all the time it takes to keep the operating system up-to-date, the PC-centric period is winding down. The shift has begun to replace the traditional PC with modern diskless, fan-less thin clients—no hard drives, no storage space and no programs to upload or update; in many cases not even a resident operating system. Most major suppliers now supply “thin-PC” hardware, and “thin” hardware and software are starting to permeate the industrial landscape. Software that orchestrates how, when and where these devices operate will be the key to managing the complex systems of the future.

4. Mobile Applications: Most automation companies are now offering new features and functions using iPad, iPhone and Droid apps. More diagnostics and service functions are now accessible via mobile phones, with cheap two-way audio and video visibility to aid trouble-shooting and service procedures. New functions are emerging with increasingly vertical-application-specific designs using pervasive consumer technology.

5. Control Systems Security: The July 2010 discovery of Stuxnet, which spies on and reprograms industrial controls and hides its changes, brought with it the recognition that critical computer infrastructures are vulnerable to malicious code. The industrial cyber-attack trend continued. Sophisticated new threats with exotic names like Night Dragon, Duqu and Nitro are designed to steal valuable information such as control systems and SCADA designs, trade secrets and business data. This is a major concern for everyone in industrial automation. Automation suppliers will continue to develop security technology solutions at all levels of hardware and software.


Muthuraman Ramasamy


Muthuraman Ramasamy (Ram) is a Frost & Sullivan industry analyst in the Industrial Automation and Process Controls practice.


1.Distributed Asset Performance Monitoring: A primary challenge faced by diverse process industries is driving enterprise-wide performance optimization of heterogeneous assets. An evolving high-growth market that would see intense focus next year is remote monitoring and servicing capabilities. Expect definite growth in sensing and sweet spots in integrating data with corporate and enterprise systems. Customers across asset-intensive industries would invest in remote monitoring technologies as CAPEX investments on brownfield projects dwindle.

2. Automated Workflow Management: The convergence of mobility and the cloud is driving the emergence of new technologies and agile business models. As operations shift from centralized to more distributed systems, workflows need to become smart, predictive and role-based. The whole decision-making process chain would see a shift toward dynamic workflows as compared to specific pre-built workflows. The new order will be condition-driven workflows that adjust themselves based on process dynamics. The impact of digital operations will further drive the business case for automated workflow technology to higher adoption rates.

3. Smart Robots: The rise of the machines! In 2013, we will see robots becoming smarter, better and more intuitive for use in mainstream process improvements. Work-class robots would transform into smart-class systems to deliver improved efficiency at high accuracy levels. A case in point is the emergence of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), which are untethered bots with onboard diagnostics that could potentially be used in automated intervention, monitoring and control purposes in deep-sea applications. Similarly, within the manufacturing floor, robots are being constructed with bionic, smart and intelligent capabilities.

4. Inference Engines: The convergence of artificial intelligence and user preferences has hit the consumer world squarely in the last few years. This facilitates a tremendous influence of inference engines as digital natives enter the world of manufacturing. Multiple backend technologies get the front-end to provide recommendations based on input parameters. The fluidity of the technology allows it to permeate across diverse industries from discrete to batch to process industries. Manufacturing has never been simpler!

5. Wireless for Control: There is a big shift in wireless from monitoring to control. Mainstream process adoption will take place next year, as end-users understand the advantages outweigh the challenges. As control moves from centralized to distributed, the market would see a sweeping change in technology used for these control applications. While the technology evolves, wireless could be the obvious choice for remote control, optimization and footprint reduction strategies.


Matthew Littlefield


Matthew Littlefield is president and principal analyst of LNS Research, where he covers topics including: manufacturing operations management, quality management software, asset performance management, sustainability and industrial automation. His blog can be found at


1. Closed Loop Quality Management: With an increasing focus on the production and delivery of high quality products, organizations are turning to closed loop quality management for end-to-end performance improvements. Facilitating the management and communication of quality across the entire value chain are data models and software interoperability capabilities that leverage the integration of business processes and IT architecture. Enterprise Quality Management Software (EQMS) is emerging as the defined and recognized software category for managing this. As organizations are looking to close the loop from product ideation through service, EQMS functionalities will have a larger presence in PLM, MES and SCM solutions.

2. Enterprise Sustainability Management: As the complexities of sustainability continue to grow, it remains a central driver for many companies. Similar to other software categories, a holistic information management strategy is converging on the sustainability space. The management of risk, compliance, energy and other areas need their own enterprise platform and application set. Enterprise Sustainability Management will emerge as a new software category, touching on five key areas: industrial energy management, product stewardship, operational risk management, sustainability reporting and environment, health, and safety. It will act as a platform for global communication, replacing manual and siloed information systems.

3. Transformation of MES: MES is a longstanding technology space that has been slowly adopted over time. Despite its lack of prevalence in relation to other software categories, it has shown strong ROI and, as a consequence, many global manufacturing companies are starting to take notice. Its ability to streamline shop floor data is providing organizations with the real-time intelligence needed to impact business performance. New technologies and implementation strategies around cloud-based manufacturing operations management solutions, BPM and data models will begin to accelerate deployment times, increase adoption and transform the definition of MES.

4. Emergence of Industrial Energy Management: Energy management can have a significant effect on financial, operational and environmental performance. With the constant flow of energy across organizations, there is a considerable opportunity for capturing data and effectively using it to realize gains in energy efficiency, reductions in costs and other areas. As companies continue down this path, there will be a new area of focus for the industrial space around connecting data across procurement, use and reporting. Industrial Energy Management will connect the shop floor with the rest of the enterprise, bringing together the right blend of software, services and financial incentive models.

5. Manufacturing Goes Local: Inquiries are up from Chinese manufacturers moving to North America and global North American-based companies are moving operations back home. Labour costs, energy costs and future trends around additive manufacturing are all making manufacturing in North America more attractive. Our belief is that this trend will really get underway in 2013, with software and hardware companies starting to make real investments in how local manufacturing can impact the value chain. We expect to see investments in a number of areas, including product development as well as engineering and supply chain distribution.


Predrag (PJ) Jakovljevic

Predrag (PJ) Jakovljevic is Technology Evaluation Centers’ (TEC) principal analyst, with a focus on the enterprise applications market. He has more than 20 years of industrial experience within the discrete manufacturing sector, including the machinery and equipment, automotive, construction and engineering and electronics industries.


1. Cloud computing: The benefits and caveats of this have been talked about ad nauseam, but the major premise is remote access for users via a mere Internet connection and subscription-based licenses (which renders annual service and maintenance fees as well as hardware investments unneeded). But while cloud computing is nearing the mainstream stage, the hybrid cloud-on premises world remains the reality with the cloud integration and federated cross-cloud security issues. The IT department goes from being a particular database or hardware shop to actually designing products that are easy to use and require less training. The IT department needs to become more of a business enabler (process enabling) and much less about “turning wrenches.”

2. Big Data: This year will see so-called “Big Data” explosion in terms of volume, variety, and velocity (thus sometimes even referred to as “fast data”) and the advent of related high-performance data discovery, data crunching and data analysis tools for mitigation of this data deluge. In-memory databases and appliances such as SAP HANA or Microsoft SQL Server 2012 are seen as the help here. In-memory databases will be increasingly used for quick response time of analysis such as in guided selling and on-the-fly recommendations, large-scale simulation, or network type optimizations. Oracle, IBM DB2, etc., will add in-memory type of capabilities to their traditional relational databases, and the hybrid structure database will be born. The reality is that there will be lots of hybrid-type environments where multiple applications are not designed for new in-memory database design. The biggest goal of big data is to find hidden patterns and answers in existing data via an easy user experience. In some ways, big data is not necessarily a new phenomenon, since there has been a vast amount of data within enterprises for many years. What has changed, though, is that we now have the appropriate tools to deal with it, both in place (static data) and in motion (fast-changing data), and to find the patterns hiding within it through cleansing and transformation.

3. Mobile computing: This allows access to data from virtually anywhere and on virtually any device. Mobile devices are no longer discretionary spending items, even (or perhaps especially) in underdeveloped countries where other resources are still scarce. I just spent several weeks this past summer in rural Serbia in my parents’ birth village that still has no running water or sewer system, yet almost every peasant has a mobile phone in his/her pocket (and quite a few dilapidated houses are adorned with satellite dishes on their leaking roofs as well). It is indeed astonishing that the Internet (cloud) and mobility have penetrated many underdeveloped regions much faster than access to basic amenities such as running water. Today ordinary people have more computing power in their pockets than NASA had in 1969 (when they sent men to the moon).

4. Social collaboration: Companies should listen closely to their customers’ needs and opinions, and analyze these for deciding on the best possible course of action. Social collaboration currently has some promise in customer service (customer sentiment analysis and social analytics for their preferences) and in pursuing leads and opportunities. A key corporate change driven by these trends is customer experience management, i.e., becoming the brand that customers think of first when a particular product or service class is mentioned, and turning casual customers into fans (if not even fanatics) that subsequently promote the brand not only by word of mouth, but also by the click of a mouse. So-called digital marketing is all about creating a fan from an impressed customer by connecting all of the aspects of the person. It is very likely that consumers are already leveraging the aforementioned IT trends to conduct their own due diligence and research on brands and retailers. Digital marketing, if properly done, can turn a business into an efficient social network, while turning customer management into fan management.

5. Consumerization of IT: All four of these forces together converge and overlap in the “consumerization of IT” trend which is reshaping enterprise IT strategies. “Consumerization” in what way, using any device or that there is no need for training (ease of use for the Gen Y)? Users find that mobile devices enhance their productivity, making them more effective in their roles. But, as many organizations move towards BYOD (bring your own device) policies, CIOs are grappling with this trend in terms of governance and security. A wider range of devices need support and therefore a device agnostic approach is required. As access to information increases, so will stress levels on the server infrastructure and the number of applications corporate information has to support. The question for the CIO is how to enhance the adoption of these devices in a way that enables the organization to capitalize on this trend. To that end, interest in mobile device management (MDM) platforms such as SAP Sybase Afaria or AirWatch will grow.

ISA Toronto

ISA Toronto was formed in 1948, and has been in continuous operation ever since. ISA Toronto offers monthly members meetings along with special events and training sessions. Learn more about ISA Toronto at


1. Wireless standards: Wireless technology, with all of its advantages and disadvantages, commendations and concerns, will be a bigger part of plant communications. How much of a bigger part is yet to be seen, but with more and more manufacturers building wireless into their devices and with speed and reliability continuously increasing, the question is not “if” but “how much?” it will be adopted. Also, call us biased, but we do like the way that ISA100 ties everything together for wireless networking.

2. NAMUR NE107: While ISA might have been changed to the International Society of Automation, at our heart we still enjoy a good standard. The NE107 standard from NAMUR fits the bill with useful, easy-to-understand parameters that allow condition monitoring at the device level.

3. Mobile Applications: A plant engineer’s dream. An IT security department’s nightmare. Being able to monitor, configure, or even diagnose plant issues from the palm of your hand might seem like something pulled out of science fiction movie, but as the power of mobile devices increase and the devices become smarter, it’s no longer a far-flung dream. Specific mobile plant interfaces have been around for a few years, but will this be the year these interfaces become “app”ed?

4. Non-Destructive Testing: Aging plants and infrastructure combined with budgetary concerns will always lead to the fundamental question of “do we need to replace it?” NDT allows this to be answered and, in some cases, can even provide a look into the future as to when a replacement might be necessary. Throw in the financial instability over the past few years, and there might be a few extra pieces of equipment that have been stretched service-wise.

5. Open Air Radar Use: Might be a bit of a surprise here, but the use of a process radar outside of a building or an enclosed tank is actually quite illegal. Good news, though, Industry Canada and the Canadian Process Control Association have been working together to rectify this and it is expected that the new rules should be formalized this year.


This article originally appeared in the January/February 2013 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.

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