In our 30th anniversary issue of Processing, we asked industry leaders to look ahead 30 years to what they saw as major trends or key developments that will continue to emerge over the next few decades. It was clear from their responses that in the future, process automation and digitalization will continue to revolutionize the process industries.

“The next 30 years of automation advancement will change how workers interact with technology,” said Peter Zornio, chief technology officer of Emerson Automation Solutions.

“Artificial intelligence, advanced analytics, augmented reality, virtual reality and cloud computing will become embedded in automation. These technologies will be used to automate knowledge and best practices in areas beyond process and production control — reliability, safety, energy consumption, for example — while also spreading expertise beyond global boundaries on the path to improving our customers’ operational performance.”

Hapman Vice President Greg Patterson said the most important trend his company sees is the rapid development of smart equipment and technologies — whether you call it Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Industry 4.0, or simply smart equipment. “Sustainability is vitally important for most processors, and the increasing use of elementary artificial intelligence connected to their equipment is assisting them in achieving that goal,” Patterson said. “Equipment that will diagnose itself, advise when more raw material is needed, warn of pending issues and use analytics to determine what caused those issues is leading the advancement of this technology. Soon, everything in the entire process will be able to feed itself, diagnose itself and change what it does based upon equipment and material availability.”

As you can see from those predictions, IIoT is more than just a buzzword. If you’ve been wanting a general overview of what IIoT really means or to delve into the details a little more, our June cover series on process automation/IIoT offers both. Kyle Till of Hapman discusses how smart technology stands to drastically improve processes in the near future and gives a rundown of how IIoT will work with material handling equipment. In a nutshell, three key benefits of IIoT for the process industries are easier preventive maintenance, longer lasting equipment and less unplanned downtime.

Every IIoT application starts with sensors, which create the data needed for advanced analytics. Our cover series continues with insights from Michael Risse of Seeq Corporation on how advanced analytics can be used to improve process plant operations.

Next, a recent study indicates Industry 4.0, known as Industrie 4.0 in Germany, provides great potential for the German economy within the next five years.  Dr. Bertolt Gärtner, of TÜV SÜD ATISAE, explains how the Industrie 4.0 Maturity Index, developed by a consortium of academic and industrial research institutes, provides a digital roadmap for companies who want to undergo a complete digital transformation.

Further, David Almagor, Ph.D., of Presenso, takes the IIoT discussion to the OEM with an evaluation of two models for Industry 4.0 — the digital twin and Hardware as a Service (HaaS). By comparing these alternatives, he explores how OEMs can play a leading role and secure their participation in this burgeoning market.

Lastly, our cover series concludes with an interesting Q&A with the coinventor of the MQTT protocol, Arlen Nipper, who discusses recent developments in this technology and its uses in industrial processing settings.

As Patterson said in our anniversary issue, “Today’s fastest-growing industries are connected with robotics, automation and artificial intelligence. With those industries expanding at such a rapid pace, it is not hard to see what tomorrow will bring.”