Manufacturers will be spending more on Internet of Things technology than any other sector. One estimate is that global IoT spending will reach $1.4 trillion by 2021. The highest priority?

Cost control, according to the C-suite manufacturing executives I’ve been speaking with recently.

The potential is attractive. We typically see ROI of approximately 3X but returns closer to 10X are not uncommon. Smart manufacturing creates value by controlling costs in three ways.

  • Predicting and preventing downtime,
  • Predicting and preventing bottlenecks,
  • Predicting and preventing defects.

But we’ve also been hearing from executives — those responsible for manufacturing, the supply chain, sustainability and marketing — that they aren’t entirely certain about where to start their smart manufacturing journey. In response to that need, my colleague Greg Kinsey and I have published a new whitepaper titled “Industry Raises Its IQ: The Journey to Smart Manufacturing.”

The paper is intended as a thought starter or guide to help manufacturers move from reactive and backward looking to proactive and forward looking; from fragmented data and siloes to aggregated data and end-to-end processes; from historical analysis to predictive analysis; from fixed operational constraints to greater flexibility; and from a culture of adaption to a culture of innovation.

We’ve outlined a journey to smart manufacturing comprised of six phases. It begins with “Visualization,” which involves collating existing data sources, potentially augmented by installing cameras or some other sort of sensor to capture data about what’s happening on the shop floor. By level six, which we refer to as “Symbiotic," you will have embedded artificial intelligence across your ecosystem to achieve truly smart factories which are self-healing and self-adjusting.

That’s an ambitious journey, and in a world where cost control is king, it pays to have a realistic roadmap and know where you might lose your way.  We welcome the opportunity to hear more about your aspirations to begin a smart manufacturing journey. Please feel free to e-mail at to start the conversation.