The Top Technology Trends for Manufacturers in 2020

Manufacturers in every industry have invested billions of dollars in digital and fabrication technologies. Some of these include; nano-technology, 3-D printing, and of course, IoT (Internet of Things) connected machines, sensors, and analytics.

Decisions on what to invest in will be determined by industry, budgets, market volatility, and what legacy systems are still in place.

Small to medium-sized manufacturers also are subjected to many challenges including;
overseas competition, attracting and retaining the best talent, labor costs, outdated-technology, cyber-security and breaches, time to market, and global competition, to name just a few.

There is no question that technology is one of the most critical factors in the success of your manufacturing company. Talking with our manufacturing partner/clients, we’ve identified the Top 5 technology trends you can expect in 2020.

1. Cybersecurity

As the migration of everything in our personal and business lives connects to the digital world, cyber-criminals and attackers have become more and more sophisticated. The cyber-hacker is no longer the hooded teenager sitting in his parent’s basement, drinking coke and eating hot-pockets while trying to hack your system.

Cyber-criminals now include national and international entities and nation-states that have deep pockets and have some of the smartest people in the world working for them. There are 10-story buildings full of cyber-hackers working 24 hours a day to break any security barrier that is created. It’s a new world out there now.

60% of small to medium-sized businesses hit by ransomware close their doors in 18-months!

Cyber-attacks don’t just affect your company they affect your customers

Cybersecurity attacks can impact both personal and financial information. For example, if a consumer orders a product online, and the billing info is transmitted to the manufacturer. If the manufacturer doesn’t have a strong security measure in place, that information is vulnerable to attacks.

This can personally impact your customers, but it also will greatly impact your reputation and relationship with those customers. The cost of remedying this breach is one thing, but the loss of reputation and customers is something you may not recover from.

The costs of cyber-attacks on manufacturers

Forty-three percent of cyber-attacks are aimed at small to medium-sized businesses, but less than 14% are prepared to defend themselves from these attacks. More than 50% of all SMB’s have suffered a breach in the last year, and the number is growing.

The average cost of a cyber-attack on manufacturers is $200,000

Modern manufacturing and IT infrastructures are getting more complex and sophisticated every year, and the number of endpoints and ground that you need to protect is growing exponentially.

And with the addition of BYOD (bring your own device), cyber-criminals can launch thousands of digital attacks designed to compromise your company in ways they never could before!

The frequency of cyber-attacks is dramatically increasing

Research shows that cyber-attacks hit small to medium-sized businesses every 35 seconds. And that half of all small to medium-sized businesses, including manufacturing companies, has suffered a breach in the past 12 months.

Unfortunately, small and medium-sized manufacturers still don’t believe they are a target!

This is a critical mistake made by over 70% of SMB’s in the manufacturing sector. It may surprise you to learn that 6 out of 10 companies have no real cyber-security plan in place at all, leaving their entire company and customers vulnerable to an attack!

How to protect yourself

To be safe, manufacturers need to have every member of their team, from the custodian to the CEO, accept the job as a sentry regarding cyber-security. Because a breach that shuts down your production line, doesn’t just affect your IT person, it affects every single employee in the company.

2. Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things, or IoT for short, simply refers to the 50 billion devices in the world that are now connected to the internet, and that are collecting and sharing data. Pretty much any physical object can now be transformed into an IoT device.

3 Things make IoT possible: internet, tiny-sensors, and cloud computing

When it comes to IoT devices, the largest majority reside in your industry, manufacturing. Known as the industrial internet of things (IIOT), it focuses on the connectivity of data provided by sensors, terminals, and other systems on your factory floor.

These date-fueled factory floors become intelligent and are capable of reporting data to anyone who is listening. This data provides visibility regarding the efficiency of factor process and performances in real-time. This data enables manufacturers to refine and improve operations using up-to-date data.

The biggest risk with IoT

Securing data from cyber-attacks is the biggest vulnerability to IoT. With the increasing sophistication and number of cyber-criminals, the risk of attack has dramatically increased. Because of these connected devices, manufacturing has become one of the biggest targets for cyber-criminals.

And because small to medium-size manufacturers make the mistake of thinking they are not a target. As large manufacturing conglomerates are spending billions of dollars protecting their companies, cyber-criminals have re-focused their efforts on smaller manufacturers, making them the most sought-after targets.

What to do with this data once you have it?

Wading through all the huge amounts of data that these smart machines spit out can be daunting — especially given the fact that some of this data will be inaccurate and not important to your efforts. As IoT in manufacturing becomes the norm, it is critical that you have technology that can make heads-or-tails of this data … like Power BI within Office 365!

Finding the right IT provider is critical

It is critical that your IT provider is both familiar with IoT, but more importantly, the cyber-security aspects of it as well. Having a layered cyber-security platform is imperative within the manufacturing industry, especially for small to medium-sized companies. Also, having a provider that is familiar with Power Bi and the other critical tools within Office 365 will allow you to analyze and use the critical data that is created.

3. Cloud Computing

One of the biggest forces causing a digital transformation in manufacturing is cloud computing. On-premise and even hosted platforms can no longer keep up with the always-changing complexity and demands of modern-day manufacturing.

If you are not committing to moving your manufacturing business and operations to the cloud, you could be left behind, causing you to lose customers and market share.

Customer demands

Customers are demanding shorter product cycles, time to market time-frames, and expect manufacturers to offer the finest quality, but at the same time, must be fast, agile, and responsive.

As well, your employees and your supply chain partners expect quick and real-time access to your business and operational data. Allowing them to have better-informed decision making, anywhere, anytime from basically any device

Cloud computing platforms now give manufacturers that connectivity and freedom

Choosing to commit to working in the cloud is not just a technology decision; it’s a business strategy that affects your entire operation, from the factory floor to the admin offices. Cloud computing gives you the speed, agility, and real-time insights you need to compete locally and globally.

Getting answers in the “manufacturing moment.”

With cloud computing, there are no delays, responses or manual inputs. You can know if products are meeting quality and customers' standards by simply logging-in and finding out at the “manufacturing moment” what is happening. And you can reduce mistakes and bottlenecks by streamlining processes and workflows.

Cloud computing is changing and transforming every aspect of modern manufacturing. Statistics show that 90% of enterprise companies are using cloud technologies, and if you want to stay relevant and compete in this global economy, cloud computing helps level the playing field!

The truth is, cloud computing is critical to SMB manufacturing, and it really isn’t “should you” go deeper into the Cloud, but “how soon can you commit” and “what’s the best way to get there?”

Why? Because your competition is already there!

4. Mobility

Manufacturing customers now expect a seamless transition between their desktop and mobile devices when accessing your services. Most of your customers open their emails on a handheld device, and a large percentage of interactions and e-commerce with your company are through mobile apps and mobile devices.

As mobile experiences continue to improve the way you communicate and relate to your customers, having a full mobile strategy is critically important for your company.

If your products and services are not accessible on just about any mobile device, your customers will be turned off and will consider looking for someone else.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

Manufacturing companies now rely on mobility. The practice of allowing staff and customers to use their own devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops, is becoming expected!

Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are being used to monitor and control industrial equipment. This allows manufacturing processes to be observed while workers are moving throughout the entire facility,

The 3 top reasons that BYOD is critical

  1. Millennials - With baby-boomers retiring at an alarming rate (10,000 a day), it is critical for manufacturers to be able to attract and retain the next workforce.
  2. Reducing Spend - Manufacturers are using mobile devices to reduce cost without sacrificing connections to important data
  3. Personnel and environment - Manufacturing seems to attract technical people who expect to work in technology and mobile culture.

The manufacturing of today, named “smart manufacturing” or “Industry 4.0”, is a high-tech and mobile industry, and its people need and expect your company to be deep in the mobile-universe!

5. Data Analytics & Power BI

There is a lot of talk about data analytics and how important it is to your business. But is it really something you need to do because your competition is doing it, or can it offer you real value? You’ve heard the term “big data” used many times, but exactly why is it important?

What is big data?

The term “big data” has a different meaning to people in different industries. But “big data” is real and is offering smaller manufacturers benefits in every aspect of their operation. So, it’s worth spending a couple of minutes on understanding what it could mean to your organization.

The idea behind the term “data” is that everything you do as a manufacturer increasingly leaves a digital trace (data), which can be collected and analyzed. So “big data” refers to the digital information you are collecting and your ability to make heads or tails of it!

Obviously, data collection isn’t new; companies have been doing it for hundreds of years. What is new is the sensor and chip technology, when combined with the internet and cloud computing, gives companies the ability to collect and a

nalyze critical information in a way they never could before … and in real-time!

Growing revenues and improving decision making through data

Small to medium-sized manufacturers continually strive to improve their decision-making regarding sales and marketing, and to get closer to the customers and to be more profitable. Unlike their counterparts in large manufacturing organizations who invest in analytics mainly to improve operational efficiency. Smaller companies concentrate more on increasing their customer base, and to hold on to the customers they do have.

10 key ways to use data analytics

  1. Make your company more competitive
  2. Help identify new trends, market, and opportunities
  3. Avoid costly mistakes and problems
  4. Reduce costs
  5. Better, faster decision-making
  6. Time savings
  7. Predictive analytics
  8. Empowered employees
  9. Better communication and collaboration
  10. Better customer service

Microsoft Power BI

As a manufacturer, there is a good chance you’ve heard of Power BI, but you don’t exactly know what it is, and if it is really something right for your business.

Power BI is a cloud-based data and business analytics service from Microsoft. It allows anyone at your company to analyze and visualize important data with better speed, efficiency, and understanding. According to Microsoft, it connects users to all the data through easy-to-use dashboards, interactive reports, and visualizations that bring data to life!

Power BI gives you a built-in Business Analyst

As a small to mid-sized manufacturer, there is a good chance you do not have a full-time Business Analyst hired to analyze and make sense of all the data you currently have. Right now, there is a big chance you have an admin, finance, or even yourself who is responsible for collecting data from the different sources, compiling it together and putting it on spreadsheets.

There is also a good chance that you or this person spend many hours pulling this information from data sets within the company, manipulating the information, and then trying to present it in a way that everyone can understand.

With Power Bi, this is done for you, automatically and in minutes. Imagine when you take all this data and put it together. You end up with thousands and thousands of excel rows to try and make sense of. Power BI will take all this info, and in a flash, create a report that will clearly and precisely give you the answers you are looking for.

Why consider Power BI?

Because it is an easy tool to use and will help propel your company into a data-driven organization and culture. Power BI has powerful self-service abilities, and no longer do you have to depend on IT or an outside analyst to make heads or tails of your data.

Power BI is a cloud-based collaboration tool that features things like “natural language query,” along with personalized dashboards and real-time alerts, simplifying the entire process. And Power BI helps smaller manufacturers use tools normally only available to large manufacturing corporations and helps level the playing field for your organization.


With the digital transformation in manufacturing in full force, and new technologies emerging on a daily basis, it can be frustrating for smaller manufacturers to know what technologies to get behind.

If you are concerned with your current technology roadmap, or if you really don’t have one to speak of, reach out to us at Imagine IT, and we can begin with a chat about your current situation.

Imagine IT has been working with small manufacturers here in the Twin Cities for over 20 years, so we understand the challenges you have been dealing with regarding technology and IT. Reach out to us now, and let’s start a conversation and see if we can help you get a better handle on this digital transformation.

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