How the manufacturing industry is using technology to increase efficiency

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Manufacturers are looking to Smart Manufacturing (US term) and Industry 4.0 (European term) to embrace the benefits of digital technology.

Smart Manufacturing/Industry 4.0 is now a common term that has been used over the past few years which covers all the latest digital technology that is now available to the manufacturing world. Therefore, as an innovative software vendor, we wanted to get an opinion on how companies look upon this term today and so we surveyed 750 companies across 16 countries to get a global viewpoint on digital change.

Research findings: the good news

The good news is that according to our survey, 81% of manufacturers have embraced digital technology, which means that they now have the ability to do ‘things’ differently as opposed to the way that they have always operated.

Even better news is that 29% of these manufacturers now consider themselves as advanced in leveraging digital transformation which can only be positive for the future. This is not an accident. History shows that the manufacturing industry has a tendency to adopt new technology faster than other industries. For example, robots have been integrated into production processes for decades now.

When asked about where the next big investments were going to be made the results weren’t that surprising, as the response was around big data and analytics. With the advent of the cloud and Internet of Things (IoT), companies can now get access to more data than they could wish for, so the trick now is how to get value from all that data.

Research findings: the not so good news

While this all seems rosy, there were barriers reported to be standing in the way of digital change—the biggest barrier being “aversion to change,” with nearly 50% of respondents putting this top of their list.

If you take the cloud as an example, many IT staff will see this as a threat to their job. Therefore, this needs to be handled carefully so that people understand that instead of looking after servers, they can add business value and enhance their skills by integrating more technology into business processes.

In regards to talent skillset, the greatest talent deficit was around artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. Because of this, 47% of companies said that this is where investment in staff was going to be made, which is very positive for those that embrace the opportunity.

But digital technology does not just affect IT. Manufacturers also reported that AI and robotics would substantially impact departments such as Supply Chain, Procurement and Human Resources the most. In turn, this will bring new challenges to companies around integration as well as adoption, but the results will be worth the investment.

How to benefit from digital technology

At IFS, we have worked with many of these dominant digital technologies for several years now, therefore we know what options are available for manufacturers and through experience have seen how manufacturers have benefited from it.

So, in summary, if we think about the driving factors behind the reason for adopting Smart Manufacturing/Industry 4.0, the main reason companies are doing this is because they are looking at improving production efficiency, delivery reliability and improved profit margin, which in the end will benefit the customers and industry in combination.

Driving manufacturing efficiency in a world of disruptive technologyIf you want to learn how your business can benefit from digital technology, you can find research, use-cases and expert-to-expert advice in the eBook, Driving manufacturing efficiency in a world of disruptive technology.


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