Manufacturing, the icon of the original Industrial Revolution, is about to benefit tremendously from the next revolution underway--the Industrial Internet.

Last week, a panel discussion moderated by Denise Bedell, executive editor of Global Finance, explored how the Industrial Internet is disrupting global manufacturing. GE’s Chief Manufacturing Scientist Stephan Biller participated on the panel along with leaders from QNX/Blackberry, Cisco, Celestica, and Accenture. 



  • Stephan Biller - Chief Manufacturing Scientist, GE
  • Steve West - Senior Director Business Development QNX/Blackberry Technology Solutions
  • Rick Huijbregts - Vice President Industry Transformation and General Manager, IoE, Smart + Conencted Communities, Cisco Canada
  • Brad Jackson - Vice President, Strategic Business Development, Diversified Markets, Celestica
  • Walid Negm - Global R&D Director, Accenture


1. The future of manufacturing is speed

There are many complex forces pushing the manufacturing industry, but the single greatest is speed. The ubiquity of mobile technology is making instant gratification not just possible, but expected. Customers want products and services as close to instantly as possible. With the rise of ecommerce, the consumer space is driving this behavior and setting the standard for enterprises. Bringing speed to manufacturing could have even more dramatic results.

Imagine rapidly prototyped cars that roll out within weeks or months instead of years. What would that actually take? Currently, testing prototypes involves slow production and slow data collection--often there's a black box recorder that collects data over a week, and then gets sneakered to an engineering group, which goes through the data by hand. Collecting, transmitting, and analyzing the data in real time would dramatically speed the process. With its combination of smart sensors, wireless communication, and big data analytics, the Industrial Internet is creating the architecture that will shrink manufacturing timescales from years, months, and weeks to hours, minutes, and seconds.

2. Optimizing for the short term sets up a long-term transformation

The Industrial Internet isn't just a disruptive technology; it's a disruptive business model. Its short-term benefits to factories are clear. Right now, factories have dozens of different IT systems, none of which speak to each other. As a consequence, there is no unified set of metrics to accurately judge efficiency. When the Industrial Internet unites factory equipment through a common data platform, it does more than just centralize information. It enables machines and people to optimize performance across entire systems, including the global supply chain.

Short term, Industrial Internet technology translates to increased ROI. Long term, it will spur new business models based on business outcomes like guaranteed efficiencies and performance. GE is already selling outcomes in addition to jet engines.Cisco estimates that there will be $19T of value, with over 20% coming from the manufacturing sector.

3. Manufacturing will embrace collaboration

Data sharing will make manufacturing collaborative, decentralized, and efficient. Ecosystems based on common standards will allow devices and people across the globe to collaborate on production in real-time. For instance, factories in Europe, Asia, and North America could all produce parts of a product, and a smart supply chain can then unite them reliably and cost-effectively. Crowd-sourced manufacturing will also grow through the sharing of ideas, apps, and additive manufacturing technology like 3D printing. Design challenges can be put out to the public to solve. Freelancers for design and writing are now commonplace. It’s not too far of a jump to imagine there being freelance manufacturing engineers as well.

Of course, in addition to these major upheavals, reducing the chaos caused by unplanned downtime will also transform factories. Technology developed by the Industrial Internet will make enable equipment health, status, and performance to be monitored and maintained through predictive analytics.

Manufacturing is a 150-year-old industry. But for the first time in a long time, it sits on the cutting edge of a huge technological revolution, poised to completely change the way we live, work and obtain the products that let us do both.

About the author

Suhas Sreedhar

Strategic Writer at GT Nexus