ABI Research Forecasts Smart Manufacturing and Simulation to be Top Trends in 2021

ABI Research sees additive manufacturing, simulation and smart manufacturing making a bigger impact in the industrial and manufacturing markets in 2021.

ABI Research
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In its new whitepaper, 68 Technology Trends That Will Shape 2021, the analysts at global tech market advisory firm ABI Research identify 37 trends that will shape the technology market and 31 others that, although attracting huge amounts of speculation and commentary, are less likely to move the needle over the next 12 months.

“For success in 2021, especially after a very challenging 2020, one must understand fundamental trends early, and take a view on those trends that are buoyed by hyperbole and those that are sure to be uncomfortable realities. Now is the time to double down on the right technology investment,” says Stuart Carlaw, Chief Research Officer at ABI Research.  

What Will Happen in 2021

Additive Manufacturing Software Innovation Will Play Catch Up

“Additive Manufacturing (AM) is an ecosystem starting to open to third-party developers, and we will see this in 2021 with broader support for AM systems in IoT platforms, a much greater emphasis on simulation and integration of process parameters, and a market that will start to realize the disparity between hardware and software innovation and react with new solutions, and new programs that improve awareness, education, and integration. The reason these actions are inevitable is that production AM simply cannot happen without them,” says Ryan Martin, Industrial & Manufacturing Research Director at ABI Research.

Simulation Will be the Needle for Digital Threads

Manufacturers and industrial firms have been focusing efforts on creating a digital thread that keeps data flowing in a continuous loop between the engineering, manufacturing, and fulfillment teams. “However, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, digital threads failed to anticipate demand surges because machine learning was looking at historical patterns and did not provide firms with the ability to maintain production. In 2021, simulation will provide firms with an overview of their operations and stress test them to build resilience. Projects will look to simulate scenarios and run what-if analysis that covers both downstream events (in end markets or individual customers) and upstream events to simulate how to accommodate supply chain events in engineering and production departments,” explains Michael Larner, Industrial & Manufacturing Principal Analyst at ABI Research.

Smart Manufacturing Builds Momentum

“Smart manufacturing will continue to build on its momentum in 2021, but not until factory owners embrace 5G for their smart factory connectivity layer will they reap the operational benefits. Factory owners have been deploying industry 4.0 tools, such as condition-based monitoring, inventory management, and building automation using ethernet cable, but deploying wireless-enabled Industry 4.0 tools will bring smart manufacturing to its full potential. Applications like wearables (health and location/safety trackers) and AR are only possible with wireless connectivity,” states Jake Saunders, Vice President at ABI Research.

What Won’t Happen in 2021

Industrial Blockchain Will Not Revolutionize the Manufacturing Sector

Industrial blockchain revenue grew 131% between 2018 and 2020, driven by successful pilots in food and beverage, and in transport and storage. “However, blockchain manufacturing applications are not going to gain any significant traction in 2021. This is largely due to the almost exclusive interest in how blockchain can successfully enable provenance, trade finance, and tracking and tracing applications, rather than in manufacturing itself. Blockchain-based manufacturing operations will remain a low priority and an underdeveloped opportunity in the near term, despite its hype and potential,” says Michela Menting, Blockchain & Distributed Ledger Research Director.