Digital factory use cases: Current maturity levels and expected adoption speed

We typically do not see large-scale digital transformations of entire factories and shop-floor operations. What we rather see are single use cases and PoCs that are tested and implemented in factories. We therefore believe that it is helpful for manufacturers to get an overview of potential use cases in a digital factory that leverage digital technologies such as analytics, AI, IoT, AR/VR, etc. and that help to get a first understanding of what is generally possible.

Therefore, we have produced an overview of use cases which we consider as relevant for manufacturing companies that want to progress with their transformation towards a digital factory.

In our recently published report, “Digital Factory: Use Cases and Maturity - InSight Analysis – Worldwide”, we give an overview of 36 use cases that we discussed with experts and stakeholders in the past few months, and which are in an evaluation stage, a proof-of-concept mode, or which already have been implemented or rolled out. We also provide a brief description of those use cases and also the related benefits from our point of view.

There are certainly many more potential use cases out there and, therefore, our list of use cases does not claim to be complete. And, for the purposes of this report, we pay particular attention to those use cases for the digital factory which are enabled by new digital technologies such as the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), analytics, robotics, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), cloud computing, wearables, and also new production concepts such as 3D printing technologies.

In order to segment the selected use cases, teknowlogy used the following two criteria: Along manufacturing value chains (sourcing, production planning, production, service and support, and logistics) and an evolutionary path, along the different levels of scope and complexity, from low complexity to very high complexity of use cases.

For example, use cases that have a relatively limited level of complexity and which are comparably easy to implement are asset location monitoring or transit tracking of trucks, whereas use cases such as energy optimization or predictive analytics involve more data analytics and, therefore, present an advanced level of complexity. Use cases with the highest level of scope and complexity include, for example, next-generation factory automation, as this not only involves complex automated processing but also complex data analytics and artificial intelligence solutions.

All the use cases described in this report were evaluated by teknowlogy by their current maturity level and the expected adoption speed in the next 12-24 months. The evaluation shows that among the use cases where teknowlogy expects an increasing investment trend are use cases that relate to condition monitoring (e.g. assets, plants, or networked production sites), predictive analytics and predictive maintenance, connected worker solutions (e.g. for assembly, picking, or maintenance support), and digital quality control.

Our key recommendation applies to both IT suppliers and manufacturers and relates to the fact that use cases in the digital factory very often require IT experts to work very closely with the experts from the operational technology (OT) domain. For IT suppliers it is, therefore, important to build appropriate partnerships with providers in the OT domain, and manufacturers are well-advised to implement an appropriate organizational setup that enables a smooth flow of information between the two worlds, such as the implementation of a steering committee consisting of IT, OT, and a management representative to provide both a dedicated budget and resources for potential projects and a review of project progress.

Please click here to download the full overview of use cases for the digital factory, including our evaluation and recommendations for manufacturers and IT suppliers.

We are currently also working on an evaluation of the C&SI provider landscape for the digital factory in Germany. Stay tuned on this!

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