Smart manufacturing is one of the buzzwords in industry in 2022, referring to an almost fully-automated factory that keeps manual processes to the minimum, so as to reduce human error. It’s characterized by the adoption of advanced technologies such as machine-to-machine communication, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and automation. 

2022 is the year that smart manufacturing scales

Towards the end of 2021, Deloitte analysts forecast that 2022 would see smart manufacturing scale, with more companies emulating advanced “lighthouse” factories and ramping up isolated tech projects and pilots to cover the entire organization. 

“Now that we have integrated smart factory solutions, I predict we’ll see a big evolution from organizations having a couple of smart factory components to whole production environments becoming smart,” wrote Jason Bergstrom, smart factory go-to-market leader at Deloitte, adding that organizations will maximize the impact of big data by bringing it together from across the corporation, rather than being satisfied with connecting a single department or just one plant. 

Indeed, this year we’re seeing increasing awareness that smart manufacturing is table stakes and that being left out means being left behind, with Plex’s 7th Annual State of Smart Manufacturing Report claiming that smart manufacturing adoption is rising by 50% year-over-year. Having been valued at $88.7 billion in 2021 by ResearchAndMarkets, the smart manufacturing market is projected to reach $228.2 billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 18.5%, and $446.24 billion by 2029

This shift owes a lot to groundwork laid by manufacturers over the last couple of years. Prodded on by the pandemic, most companies have completed basic digital transformation projects like deploying Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices, establishing data gathering processes, and implementing cloud storage, and are moving on to more advanced projects that build upon that foundation. 

By now, more than 90% of companies are using or implementing digital manufacturing technology, Fictiv reports, and 75% will have adopted at least some components of smart manufacturing by the end of 2022, according to the Plex Report.

AI use in day-to-day operations by country

Smart manufacturing adoption drivers

Not surprisingly, the pandemic has been a major driver for smart manufacturing adoption, which has compounded these primary factors that motivate smart manufacturing in 2022:

  • Supply chain issues;
  • Remote work and labor shortages;
  • Sustainability and ESG demands;
  • The need to keep up and communicate with customers. Research by Fictiv found that 97% of manufacturers say that customer demands are shifting, specifically towards improved sustainability and quality.

Here are the top 2022 smart manufacturing trends.

Production monitoring 

New solutions use AI and ML together with data gathered by IIoT devices to offer advanced levels of production monitoring. Deloitte notes that this type of close monitoring may be required to help organizations keep up with the fast-moving ESG landscape and quantify moves to lower energy consumption. 

Production monitoring includes predictive monitoring, predictive maintenance (PdM), and PdM as a Service, an important new trend which helps plants onboard to predictive maintenance faster and with less hassle. 

These technologies can detect the earliest signs of impending failures, leaks, or bottlenecks in processes, assisting employees to identify wasteful inefficiencies, spot environmental hazards, and correct them before they become serious. 


Automation is rapidly spreading across entire organizations, using AI and ML for robotic process automation (RPA) for soft administrative tasks like invoicing, vendor management, and inventory management, as well as automating manufacturing processes. Plants are adopting collaborative robots, or cobots, which work together with human employees to extend their capabilities and deliver a safer working environment. 

Taking it a step further, one of Gartner’s Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2022 is hyperautomation, which involves rapidly identifying, vetting and automating as many business and IT processes as possible, using a combination of technologies including AI, IoT, and digital twins. 

Digital twins

Digital twins is one of the leading smart technologies, with ResearchAndMarkets’ predicting the digital twins’ market to grow at a CAGR of 68.9% between 2022 and 2027, reaching an estimated value of $43,614.8 million. Digital twins use AI and ML to crunch data from IIoT devices and plant sensors, creating an exact digital copy of the factory which is constantly updated according to real time changes in the plant. 

Digital twins are used to optimize layouts and planning for new factories; by remote engineers to carry out root cause analysis using VR and AR headsets, and even to fix issues in the bricks and mortar factory by changing the configurations on the digital version. 

Supply chain management

Supply chain is the enduring problem child of the pandemic and previously fractured global manufacturing norms, and thus near the top of the list for smart manufacturing solutions. Plex’s study reports that the percentage of plants using a supply chain planning software solution jumped from 30% in 2017 to 78% in 2022.

Tools tackle a number of aspects, including delivering end-to-end supply chain visibility and automating supply chain decisions. Solutions draw on various technologies, including blockchain for transparency and accountability; AI-powered data processing to pull together data from disparate sources, and cloud computing so that data is accessible from anywhere and at all times. 

Data visualizations 

The rise of the connected factory and preponderance of IoT devices have gifted manufacturing companies with a tsunami of data, with plants that have advanced IIoT systems receiving as much as 70 terabytes of data per day from a single assembly line. This data is highly valuable, but only when organizations have the capability to access insights from it. 

Advanced data visualizations, such as 3D visualizations, offer a clearer view of changing metrics and a deeper look into shifting business and plant conditions. With such visualizations, plants can achieve a more accurate understanding of processes and root cause analysis, often in real-time.

Additive manufacturing

3D printing is almost standard for producing exact replacement parts when equipment fails, thereby reducing delays in dealing with incidents, but additive manufacturing is mastering new techniques that support process manufacturing to meet its goals. Additive and conventional manufacturing are “now starting to connect and create a more integrated production environment,” in the words of Bart Van der Schueren, CTO of Materialise.

New 3D printing materials are recyclable and reusable, helping plants improve sustainability, while micro 3D printing can produce ever-more complex and hard-to-source production components, assisting in shortening the supply chain and ensuring that plants have all the items they need. By integrating additive marketing, plants can ensure smoother production runs and fewer interruptions. 


Wearables use data from IIoT devices, GPS location data, and AI to deliver alerts to employees that warn them about potential hazards, remind them about safety or compliance requirements, and notify them about significant changes in the plant. 

For example, smart wristbands can alert the wearer if a surface is too hot to touch or a piece of equipment is malfunctioning, and GPS-embedded items monitored employee movements to enforce safe distancing during the pandemic. The market for industrial wearables is predicted to grow at a CAGR of 25% between 2021 and 2026, rising from an estimated $2 billion in value to $6.1 billion in that timeframe. 

Edge computing 

Edge solutions, wireless connectivity, and 5G/6G system go hand in hand with delivering the latency-free connections needed by IIoT devices, and the systems that rely on them. Digital twins, predictive analytics, supply chain monitoring dashboards, and other smart manufacturing technologies depend upon near-instant data from IIoT systems. 

Research by McKinsey predicts a sharp rise in 5G IoT sales from 2023, with units sold reaching over 22 million by 2030. 

5G IoT sales forecast

Smart manufacturing is taking off

As Fictiv CEO and co-founder Dave Evans put it, “2020 was about seeing the problems, 2021 was about finding the solutions, and now in 2022, we see companies are making progress towards a future-proofed industry.” 

These 8 smart manufacturing trends, from predictive monitoring and digital twins to wearables and edge computing, build upon the digital transformation foundations laid in the last few years and are set to continue to strengthen throughout this year and beyond.