Trends for 2024: Generative AI Shakes Up the Process Manufacturing Industry

Training LLMs, identifying sustainable solutions, and converging IT and OT systems suggest that factories will rely even more on operational data in the new year.

As the world steps into 2024, many companies in the process manufacturing industry are nearing a new phase of their digitalization journey. The year ahead includes a blend of innovative technologies and strategic shifts that reshape the way engineers and data scientists approach operational improvements.

The 3 Analytics Trends for 2023 showed some of the same trends that affected the process manufacturing industry during 2022. This year, many analysts suggest a continuation of these trends—along with some new ideas that match recent technical advancements—as companies make progress in their digital transformations. During 2024, manufacturers are expected to embrace AI solutions, achieve sustainable operations, and continue to close the IT/OT gap along their digitalization journey.

Based on research from several market analysts and the recent hype surrounding generative AI, here’s what we believe our customers can expect in 2024.

Trend 1: More Industrial Generative AI Use Cases

Generative AI is likely going to change the way factories operate. Gartner noted in 2023 that the transformative power of generative AI is seen in its potential to automate a broad spectrum of tasks. This democratization of AI across organizations is set to boost productivity, reduce costs, and open new avenues for growth. In 2023, companies rapidly adopted OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Later in the year, AWS launched Amazon Q as generative AI solution that can be tailored for specific needs.

By 2026, generative AI is expected to significantly alter 70% of new web and mobile app development, which indicates a change in how companies approach technology in manufacturing.

In this chart by Gartner, democratized generative AI turns every organization into an AI business, which includes the process manufacturing industry.

In a Deloitte survey on smart factories, manufacturers said they have seen the most benefit in product quality. Other areas of improvements include safety, sustainability, and asset efficiency.

A Deloitte study also revealed that 86% of surveyed manufacturing executives believe smart factory solutions will be the primary drivers of competitiveness during the next five years. This aligns with a belief that the industrial metaverse could lead to a 12% gain in labor productivity, which could ease labor shortages. Generative AI also is expected to play a role in product design, aftermarket services, and supply chain management.

Anomaly detection model

Trend 2: Sustainability for Achieving Net Zero

Sustainability is transitioning from a trend to a core operational principle. Greener manufacturing practices focus not just on optimizing processes for efficiency and cost, but also for their effect on the environment. By 2027, Gartner said 25% of CIOs will have their compensation linked to their use of sustainable technology. It’s important to select technologies that achieve sustainability goals while aligning with business priorities and stakeholder expectations.

Companies also face new challenges as they decarbonize. These include technical readiness, high initial costs, and complex supply chains. They demonstrate a need for data-driven approaches to sustainability.

This chart from Gartner shows how technology relates to the different segments within the Environmental, Social, And Governance (ESG) framework for sustainability.

To help companies succeed, advanced industrial analytics software provides insights necessary to make data-driven decisions. The software empowers engineers to analyze and optimize their operations for energy efficiency. They also can reduce carbon emissions, which paves the way toward net-zero operations. Advanced industrial analytics software also aligns environmental goals with business objectives.

Trend 3: Enhancing Productivity by the IT/OT Convergence

In Deloitte’s 2024 manufacturing industry outlook, the analyst uses recent investments in semiconductor and clean technology as a signal that companies are working to close the IT/OT gap. Gartner also notes that initiatives to address the IT/OT convergence are high on the list of priorities. These include the adoption of cloud solutions, use of AI, and others.

Gartner also predicts that more than 50% of manufacturers will use industrial cloud platforms to accelerate their business initiatives by 2027. That is up from less than 15% in 2023. Cloud solutions include data lakes, where manufacturers can store contextual information, and storage designed for sensor-generated data, which is the modern historian. The shift from on-premises to cloud-based storage is also indicative of an increasing reliance on technology to make data more accessible.

This chart by Gartner demonstrates how industrial cloud platforms are being used to accelerate the IT/OT convergence.

By integrating data from both informational technology and operational technology sources, operational experts get a unified view of operations. They get better insights, which helps them make better decisions. For example, engineers can use real-time analytics from operational and contextual data to optimize processes and reduce downtime.

Trend 4: Smart Factories and the Industrial Metaverse

In its Tech Trends 2024 report, Deloitte discusses how generative AI, digital twins, smart factories, and the industrial metaverse are reshaping technology and business. Generative AI is a key driver of growth. It makes operations in various industries more advanced and efficient. This technology is especially important for industries that rely on complex processes and data analysis.

Digital twins play an important role in the development of smart factories. They are virtual models of physical systems that offer real-time monitoring and predictive insights. Smart factories use these digital twins along with advanced industrial analytics and IoT technology. This helps to improve production processes and increase efficiency.

The industrial metaverse is where these technologies come together. It uses spatial computing and AI to create immersive, interactive environments. These environments mimic real-life industrial processes. The merging of virtual and physical worlds in the industrial metaverse leads to better operational efficiency. It also opens up new business models and ways of working in the industrial sector.

Other Trends for Industry in 2024

  • Automation and robotics. They are becoming important for improving efficiency and addressing workforce challenges.
  • Supply chain digitalization. Companies will use solutions that provide better transparency and efficiency from procurement through distribution.
  • Edge intelligence in AI/ML technologies. This will allow real-time data processing at the source for better decision-making.
  • An increase in aftermarket services and product electrification. These new practices demonstrate the importance of extending product lifecycles and embracing sustainable manufacturing practices.
  • RFID and machine vision. Manufacturers will use these solutions to help track inventory and manage quality assurance.
  • Geopolitical resilience. In uncertain times, manufacturers will need to find ways to remain agile.

The Journey Ahead

For the process manufacturing industry, these 2024 trends offer a roadmap to navigate the evolving digital landscape and succeed in the years to come. With the help of operational data and AI solutions, the future of process manufacturing looks more promising than ever

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