Digital-first enterprises deliver eight times more revenue growth and twice as much profit margin than their peers. It’s true in retail. It’s true in banking. And it’s true in manufacturing – the focus of this blog post.

My friend and former colleague, IDC analyst Frank Gens, shared those insights in Preparing for the Digital-First Economy: The Hyperscale, Hyperspeed, and Hyperconnected Enterprise, published as part of IDC Directions 2020. His report underscores the tremendous opportunity facing manufacturers that invest in digital technologies, including IoT. And no matter what a manufacturer makes today, when it transforms into a digital factory, it will generate a critical new output: massive quantities of data.

As information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) converge, IoT sensors and devices will produce a mind-boggling amount of information. That information can help transform legacy assets into digital assets. It also makes it possible to unleash new opportunities – including the application of machine learning and digital twins, and their integration into digital supply chains.

In a recent webinar, I outlined 10 requirements or considerations to increase OT business value from IoT data. In addition, all digital factories will need to manage their data effectively – and that requires attention to three key elements:

1. Governance. The data flowing within a digital factory and across ecosystem partners contains a company’s intellectual property (IP) and competitive differentiation. It must be managed accordingly. Manufacturers need clear answers to these and other questions: What data is needed? Who gets to see it? What are users permitted to do with their data? And, how will they be held accountable?

2. Security. On a factory floor, security converges around two dimensions: physical security of OT and cybersecurity of IT. Every digital factory must have full visibility of OT and IT assets and how data is moving among them. There can be no compromise on security – period!

3. Connectivity. Factories typically run inside condensed spaces, and network connectivity has been viewed like any other utility. It’s always there when needed, but how it is managed has little importance. However, once IoT solutions are deployed, factories must be able to capture data at the network edge and potentially pass it into a multi-cloud environment (including private cloud, public cloud, on premise and off premise). The notion of sending data to the cloud can be frightening – which is why secure connectivity is so important.

Manufacturing is at the cusp of a transformation created by the availability of asset data. OT managers increasingly feel pressure to promote the use of factory data to build better products or better services. And while it’s OT’s charter to safeguard the factory floor, IT suppliers must address the three pillars of data management – governance, security and connectivity – to power digital success.

Whether building automobiles or airplanes, blending batter or producing prescription drugs, every manufacturer benefits from simple, powerful tools for becoming a digital factory – without compromising the business.


Vernon Turner

Product Marketing Manager, IoT Edge & Data

Cisco Internet of Things (IoT)