Smart factories represent a leap forward from traditional automation. These fully connected and flexible production systems leverage persistent data streams from connected manufacturing devices to learn and adapt to dynamic conditions. Smart factories distinguish themselves from existing factory automation systems by allowing autonomous operation of entire production processes. The latest technology, including smart sensors and advanced robotics, allows next-generation interconnectivity between equipment, facilities, and processes across the value chain. IoT advances allow a new level of real-time data transmission and synthesis between smart devices and machines. The result: more efficient and agile manufacturing systems, with less production downtime and better competitive advantages in the marketplace.
Canvass Analytics: reported an 85% increase of new leads by October 2020.
OTTO Motors: reported a boost in orders in June 2020 with more than 70% coming from Fortune 500 companies, including GE, Toyota, Nestlé, and Berry Global.
Fetch Robotics: saw a 64% increase in inbound inquiries during the first two months of the US Covid-19 crisis.
Bright Machines: is offering no-cost automation for up to a year as part of a three-year microfactory-as-a-service (MaaS) agreement with manufacturers producing equipment to help fight COVID-19.
Bright Machines: announced a Factory Resiliency Fund worth up to USD 50 million to support new customers with automation projects and future-proofing against future disruptions.
Uptake: is offering free predictive maintenance software to fleets of any size that transport essential items such as food, medical supplies, and personal wellness items.
Bright Machines: has developed a robotic COVID-19 test sample processing system to increase the number of tests per day while reducing risk of transmission.
By leveraging their capital and innovation capabilities while taking advantage of long-standing relationships with manufacturers, incumbents in the smart factory industry have captured considerable market size in each of these segments.
Of these seven segments, the data analytics, predictive maintenance, and advanced robotics categories are the most highly populated with disruptors and watchlist companies. Startups have been capable of capturing market share in these segments by leveraging risk-taking cultures to produce highly digitized products in a high-stakes physical factory environment to go head-to-head with established firms.
A number of startups are focused on data analytics, cloud networking, industrial robots, and factory automation hardware. Some disruptors have forged partnerships/collaborations with similar companies in Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, analytics, and other Industry 4.0 software providers to leverage their core competencies and capabilities, as well as with customers and integrators in strategic alliances.
SparkCognition is an AI analytics startup offering four deep learning product solutions: Darwin (automated model-building software), DeepArmor (AI-powered cybersecurity), DeepNLP (NLP solution), and SparkPredict (analytics solution utilizing sensor data). These products deliver actionable insights, predict machine issues via historical maintenance data, and provide security from cyber threats. These products can be deployed across multiple industries, such as manufacturing, defense, utilities, oil and gas, and aviation.
SparkCognition’s clientele comprises large companies such as Boeing, Hitachi, and British Petroleum. It has also built partnerships with Google for cloud platform services, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise to offer AI predictive maintenance on HPE Edgeline Converged Edge Systems, and OSIsoft to integrate SparkCognition’s machine learning technology with OSIsoft’s PI system to improve data and process data analytics. The company’s most recent funding round was Series C funding worth USD 100 million in October 2019, led by March Capital Partners. The funds were intended to be used to expand globally, invest in product development, and build a more extensive customer base.
In August 2021, SparkCognition appointed Stephen Gold as its Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). Gold is expected to leverage his strategic marketing experience in market transitions and company growth to bolster SparkCognition’s future success. Also, Vijay Doradla (current Chief Business Officer) was promoted to President, and Jeffrey Lass took on the role of Chief Operating Officer (COO) in addition to his current Chief Financial Officer (CFO) responsibilities. Doradla will oversee go-to-market strategy and corporate development, while Lass will manage operations, improvement efforts, and financial and administrative duties.
Most incumbents entered the smart factory market by introducing “Industry 4.0” Internet of Things (IoT) solutions. Some acquired smaller companies or formed partnerships to accelerate growth and synergize their competitive advantages. The result is that legacy players in the infrastructure management industry, such as Honeywell and Siemens, are gradually becoming software vendors as industrial IoT matures.
Following this trend, it is expected that larger incumbents will extend their dominant stance by merging smaller, innovative startups with their own development teams. Furthermore, incumbents are expected to diversify into multiple product offerings to provide vertical integration within the factory digitalization industry. Most of the incumbents identified below have acquired smaller companies and developed partnerships while developing in-house products.
However, many startups may be able to compete against the incumbents. Not only are they generally faster innovators and more agile, but possessing digital vision at the leadership level and a risk-taking culture of producing highly-digitized products for high-stakes physical spaces provide potential competitive advantages.
On the other hand, incumbents have more access to capital and can also leverage their longstanding relationships with manufacturers to develop stronger sales channels. This unique competitive landscape makes the smart factory industry a sector to watch closely.
PTC’s ThingWorx IoT platform currently leads the market, with end-to-end IoT capabilities, greater flexibility and functionality, and strong security and scalability features. PTC incorporates machine learning, device connectivity, and augmented reality (AR) into ThingWorx and also integrates the platform with leading cloud service providers.
ThingWorx’s offering of both IoT and AR is a competitive differentiation. AR is used on factory floors for visualizing IoT data in heads-up dashboards, design reviews, and to improve quality control. PTC also offers additive manufacturing with a topology optimization extension that allows manufacturers to maximize workflow capabilities with defined parameters to create optimal models that fit their specific needs. Once calibrated these AR design models are a powerful tool to efficiently build bespoke or template-based physical structures layer by layer.
In 2018, PTC formed a strategic partnership with Rockwell Automation, a leader in industrial automation and information technology. This allows PTC to combine its ThingWorx IoT and AR platform and industrial connectivity products obtained through previous acquisitions—Vuforia and Kepware Technologies, respectively—with Rockwell Automation’s FactoryTalk MES, FactoryTalk Analytics, and Industrial Automation platforms.
This seamless integration improves plant efficiency and lowers operational risk, raising the value of the connected enterprise. In June 2020, PTC further extended its partnership with Rockwell Automation and Microsoft, launching ‘Factory Insights as a Service’, to enable manufacturers to reduce development time by 90%, increasing speed to market.
PTC is also involved in strategic partnerships with other industry leaders. A deal with Hewlett Packard Enterprise allows PTC to offer industrial IoT solutions with edge computing solutions, and another partnership with Microsoft offers enhanced cloud-based industrial IoT solutions with advanced product lifecycle management (PLM) functionality.