Internet of Things
As the Internet of Things becomes more prominent — from dog collars that map a pet’s wanderings to jet engines alerting manufacturers of imminent maintenance needs — the Internet is steady filling with conversations from one device to another. Billions of devices are now equipped with unique IP addresses —smartphones, a camera on an oil-drilling rig or an optical sensor in a steel mill — that collect and send data. The installed base for Internet-connected devices is forecast to mushroom to nearly 50 billion by 2020 according to one estimate.
Manufacturers are contributing to the traffic. A 2015 survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers found:
• 35% of manufacturers are currently collecting and using data generated by smart sensors to enhance manufacturing/operating processes; 17% plan to do so in the next three years, with another 24% with plans, but no timeline.
• 34% of manufacturers believe it is “extremely critical” that U.S. manufacturers adopt an Internet of Things (IoT) strategy in their operations; 60% believe it’s “moderately or slightly critical.”
• 38% of manufacturers currently embed sensors in products that enable end-users/customers to collect sensor-generated data; 31% have no plans to do so, and the balance plan to do so in the future.
Accentuate the positives
U.S. manufacturers have found a sense of stability and rays of optimism in the latest economic news, but continue to express concerns over lingering economic challenges.
The most recent quarterly outlook survey from the National Association of Manufacturers found that 61.7% of manufacturers are either somewhat or very positive about their own company’s outlook, up from 56.6% who said the same thing in March.
That ends a five-quarter slide in confidence, down from 91.2% in the fourth quarter of 2014, suggesting that companies are somewhat more upbeat today than three months ago.
Despite the quarterly improvement, the NAM Manufacturing Outlook Index remains below 50, rising from 38.7 to 42.2. Medium-sized manufacturers, those defined by NAM as those with between 50 and 499 employees, and large firms, employing 500 or more, took more of an upbeat view of their company’s outlook. Positive views, by firm size: small manufacturers, 56.1%, down from 60.3% in March; medium-sized manufacturers, 64.2%, up from 57.9% in March; and large manufacturers, 62.2%, up from 51.1% in March.