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Collaboration, open platforms and digital upskilling: the recipe for success for the digitalization of the manufacturing industry 

According to IDC estimates, by 2025 there will be 41.6 billion connected devices. That is more than five connected devices for every person on earth. Such scaled adoption is attributed to significant investments in technologies such as Cloud, Internet of Things (IoT) and edge computing, and artificial intelligence that support the digitization of companies across every industry. Companies have recognized the value of digital transformation and how the adoption of such technologies can drive significant efficiency gains, cost reductions and potentially new business models that drive growth. By capturing and treating data to generate new insights, companies are seeing endless possibilities for their core business. 

Manufacturing companies as pioneers in the field of industrial IoT

The market research institute IDC recently examined how companies, specifically in the German market, work with connected devices and industrial machinery (Industrial IoT). The result: The degree of implementation fluctuates greatly. Companies from the manufacturing industry are particularly progressive. Almost half of the industrial companies surveyed (42%) have already implemented IoT projects. They’re recipe for success: They rely on robust partnerships, open platforms and open industry standards, while ensuring they bring their employees on the journey by investing in developing their digital skillset.

The value of partnerships: No company can do this alone

Anyone who has observed developments in the manufacturing industry in the past few years will notice that hardly any company implements transformational projects alone. Manufacturing companies bundle their skills in cross-industry partnerships with other companies and industrial organizations, such as Plattform Industrie 4.0, OPC Foundation or the Open Manufacturing Platform. Microsoft is one of these partners. Microsoft has broad expertise in the cloud, AI, IoT and industrial environments and offers a secure, globally available cloud infrastructure – currently available in 58 cloud regions, and in over 140 countries. Setting up and operating such infrastructure would not only be costly for industrial companies, but also very time-consuming. By partnering with Microsoft, companies can save valuable time that can otherwise be dedicated to driving new and differentiated value. Manufacturing companies such as FESTO or Bühler show how quickly digital business models can be developed if you trust a partner and their IT infrastructure. Microsoft as an provider also works with a robust and deeply experienced partner ecosystem, capable of understanding Manufacturer’s core needs and helping them throughout their transformation journey. 

Principle of openness – with the highest security requirements

The reality for manufacturers is that they rely on countless different systems, machines and plants that need to be networked. This creates the added complexity of data silos, which significantly limit the opportunities for companies to not only collect new data but generate valuable insights from it. Data exchange across system boundaries and proprietary protocols is therefore essential for successful digitization.

Microsoft is committed to openness in the industrial environment: open platforms, open industry standards, open data models and open source reference architectures in industrial IoT. Furthermore, Data security is always a top priority, especially given that the increased networking of machines, systems and everyday objects also creates new points of cyber-attacks which must be addressed. The Internet of Things will only be truly sustainable if it is secure and the risks for connected systems and machinery must be top of mind for manufacturers to keep up with cyber-attack strategies. For this reason, it makes sense to cooperate with tech partners who have extensive expertise in the security environment. Microsoft invests over $1 billion annually in infrastructure and security and offers edge to cloud security. Microsoft also puts the cloud and large-scale intelligence from decades of security experience to work by delivering smart threat detection and response with AI-driven security signals.

Digital skills: man and machine

29 percent of the companies surveyed as part of the IoT Signals study currently state that the lack of skilled workers is slowing down their IoT activities. Employees need a future-oriented toolbox of IT skills and key competencies for the digital world. It is therefore becoming increasingly important for companies to continuously develop and retain the know-how of their employees, and to secure and promote young talent. Manufacturing shop floors have always been places for human-machine interaction is a critical success factor. Manufacturers must augment the human worker with the help of machines, creating an unbeatable team as the foundation of transformation efforts. 

In a previous post, we introduced the four components of our approach to openness in industrial IoT (IIoT). Although openness has long been a central element of our strategy, the specific ways we execute on this strategy has recently generated a lot of interest. This makes sense. The increased need for smart manufacturing has spurred a digital transformation in the industry. To remain competitive, manufacturers must move beyond the proprietary systems that have defined their industry for decades and instead link together disparate technologies, correlate different data sets, and unify entire systems, factories, and enterprises.

In other words, they need to become more open.