What’s Ahead for Industrial Enterprises: 5 Technology Trends in 2020

Written By: Stacy Thompson
  • 12/23/2019
  • Read Time : 5 min
technology trends for 2020

The past decade has seen sweeping changes in industrial innovation, from advanced automation to shifting workforce demographics. Leading-edge industrial enterprises are investing billions in digital transformation, driven by major challenges facing industrial companies globally: worker and talent shortage/aging workforce, risk and cost pressure, and digital disruption.

Successful enterprises are at continued risk for disruption – and forward-thinking organizations will increasingly turn to digital transformation and innovative technologies to mitigate, accept, and leverage this new landscape as a strategic differentiator in an increasingly volatile, competitive market.

With 2020 around the corner, we’ve aggregated trends and predictions for this year (and beyond) to help industrial leaders navigate uncertainty and increase operational flexibility for the future. Let’s have a look at PTC’s curated list of technology trends in 2020:

AI & 5G Move from Emerging to Prominent Technologies for Industrial Enterprises

Over the past decade, artificial intelligence (AI) has revolutionized the workplace, with enterprises making use of machine and deep learning across a broad range of industrial applications to transform processes. AI has the potential to transform the industrial world – and businesses are investing more each year in AI. Research shows a 95% growth projection in the adoption of AI over the next two years, with 42% of industrial enterprises already using the technology to personalize customer experiences, reduce human bias, and automate tasks.

Similarly, 5G is poised to take center stage as a prominent technology in 2020. Forbes notes that the proliferation of 5G will accelerate advancements in smart manufacturing, among other IoT-intensive technologies, proving “the true value of 5G won’t be limited to phones.”

5G brings a profound improvement to the industrial setting: fully wireless factories. Smart factories of the future, armed with 5G capabilities, will deliver: speeds that are up to 100 times faster than 4G, latency of less than one-tenth of a millisecond, and movable, easily repurposed IoT sensors that can collect data from one part of the factory one day and a completely different part the next.

Digitally-Enhanced Workers Drive Productivity and Innovation

The manufacturing skills gap remains a real and pressing threat to industrial enterprises globally. A report by The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte last year found that 4.6 million jobs will need to be filled in the sector over the next decade, and 2.4 million jobs may be left open due to a lack of trained workers.

Leading-edge organizations are turning to digital technology to optimize their workforce for the present and future. IDC predicts, by 2021, new future of work practices will expand the functionality and effectiveness of the digital workforce by 35%, fueling an acceleration of productivity and innovation at practicing organizations. A survey from PwC finds 89% of respondents say digitalization will drive the hiring of new employees with necessary qualifications. A further 47% of survey participants say they intend to replace workforce attrition due to age by using digital technologies, and half of respondents believe digital technologies will help older employees work longer.

The Impact of Industrial IoT Becomes Pervasive Across the Supply Chain

The IoT is the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to interact with their internal states or the external environment. For industrial enterprises, it’s a valuable asset for one simple reason: it provides the data that makes up the building blocks of the smart factory.

IDC notes that, by 2025, 60% of manufacturers will use IoT platforms with digital innovation platforms to operate networks of asset, product, and process digital twins for a 25% reduction in cost of quality. But Forrester predicts this year will see profound industrial IoT expansion as well, proliferating across consumer products, industrial operations, and supply chains.

“IoT is a technology that supply chain leaders simply cannot ignore,” says Christian Titze, research vice president at Gartner. “We are seeing more supply chain practitioners exploring the potential ofIoT. Areas that IoT might have a profound impact on are enhanced logistics management, improved customer service, and improved supply availability.”

Augmented Reality Wearables See Explosive Growth

While augmented reality (AR) has been around for years, Forbes notes the technology has primarily been adopted in the entertainment space. Forbes predicts, in 2020, AR will see tremendous growth, with businesses realizing the wealth of possibilities offered by AR, virtual reality, and mixed reality, including training and simulation, as well as new ways to interact with customers. IndustryWeek, in fact, says AR will be the easiest way for the next generation of workers to learn new efficiencies – and enterprises will have to embrace the new technology to succeed.

More specifically, MarketWatch projects AR wearables, such as the HoloLens, will take the industrial sector by storm, growing by 73% over the next few years as enterprises leverage the technology to improve workplace productivity, efficiency, and safety.

Manufacturers Turn to Digitally-Native Companies to Drive Digital Transformation

With technologies like AI, 5G, IoT, and AR becoming increasingly prevalent across the industrial sector, manufacturers are turning to partnerships to drive digital momentum. A Deloitte study shows many manufacturers are actively mobilizing partnerships within their ecosystem that can drive targeted business goals, ranging from bolstering a traditional area (e.g., improving customer experience) to adding new capabilities (e.g., creating new business models). As manufacturers think about building agility into their supply chains, there is increasing realization that these efforts cannot occur in isolation. 

Deloitte’s 2020 Manufacturing Industry Outlook shows leading manufacturers are leveraging digital partnerships at a much higher rate than their peers. Whether to pursue new business models, create new value for customers, or drive higher productivity and output, successful industrial enterprises are embracing digital transformation – and fast.

Final Thoughts

With 2020 around the corner, the time is now for industrial companies to invest in an increasingly digital world. Forward-thinking organizations are leveraging nascent technologies to their strategic advantage, transforming their processes, products, and people.

The trends forecast for the coming year includes a mix of innovative technologies and a new way of thinking about driving change within the industrial sector – will your organization keep pace with the 2020 trends predictions?


  • Augmented Reality
  • Industrial Internet of Things
  • Digital Transformation
  • Digital Twin

About the Author

Stacy Thompson Stacy Thompson is the Director of Corporate Content Marketing at PTC. She has more than a decade of experience in content, SEO, and social media development, B2B and B2C communications, demand generation campaigns, and analytics/content measurement. She is also a Professor of Content Strategy in Kent State University’s User Experience Design Master’s program.