213004814 | Jon Anders Wiken | Dreamstime
66589e3f5d74d64c3be45081 Dreamstime M 213004814

Survey: 90% of manufacturers are using AI, but many feel they lag behind competitors

May 30, 2024
Findings in annual survey of 508 industrials by cloud ERP provider Rootstock Software reveal an “imposter syndrome” where 38% worry they are behind peers in implementation.

A survey of 508 industrial operators across 14 countries conducted by Researchscape and cloud ERP provider Rootstock Software found widespread enthusiasm for digital transformation and rapidly-growing implementation of artificial intelligence into their operations—but also worries that their peers are ahead on AI and about overall economic conditions.

The results of the research, released May 29 and contained in San Ramon, California-based Rootstock’s 2024 State of Manufacturing Technology Survey, assessed how manufacturers with revenues over $10 million a year in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the U.K., and the U.S. view their digital transformation journeys, where they are currently making tech investments, and where they see opportunities for technologies such as AI.

See also: With AI, the time is now, say manufacturing technologists, futurist, 'evangelist'

The study’s topline result found that 90% of the manufacturers are utilizing some form of AI in their operations, but that there is a level of “imposter syndrome” when it comes to AI implementation and progress, with 38% reporting they feel behind their peers in implementation.

In 2023, the inaugural year of the Rootstock report, the survey found that the top two barriers to digital transformation were a lack of cross-departmental collaboration/coordination (37%) and limited access to data (34%).

This year’s report shows a shift from concerns around data access and departmental collaboration to constraints surrounding budget/resources (31%) and time (27%), which emerged as the new top obstacles to digital transformation initiatives in 2024, according to a Rootstock release.

“Today’s economic climate is driving an urgent need for manufacturers to do more with less,” said Raj Badarinath, Rootstock’s chief product and marketing officer. “To navigate the volatile micro and macro trends occurring at a local and global scale, manufacturers are recalibrating technology investments and resetting what ERP means in the age of AI.”

See also: IIoT means nothing and no one uses generative AI

Badarinath added: “In years past, they’ve hobbled along on incremental benefits from legacy solutions. But now they’re seeing the benefits of a modern, cloud-first, AI-ready platform approach. Acquiring these capabilities will deliver the benefits that matter most to manufacturers, namely precise control over their resources, the ability to adapt to ever-changing conditions, and more time to focus on initiatives that truly deliver value.”

See also: Your competitors are using AI. Why risk falling behind them?

Other findings from the State of Manufacturing Technology Survey include:

  • Manufacturers are optimistic about digital transformation progress. According to data from the 2024 survey, manufacturers show a positive outlook on digital transformation (63%), with the majority feeling they’re at least on par with peers (39%) or slightly ahead (24%).
  • The respondents anticipate significant negative impacts from current economic conditions. Top concerns were unreliable suppliers (39%) and decreased demand (36%).
  • Investments in enterprise software are critical to growth. Over half (51%) of manufacturers are planning to increase spending in this area (such as ERP, CRM, HCM, SCM, finance).
  • Cloud ERP is bringing manufacturers benefits. Manufacturers leveraging Cloud ERP reported reduced overall costs (56%), improved IT security (46%), and enhanced business agility and resiliency (46%).
  • The adoption of a manufacturing “signal chain” translates to digital transformation success. Manufacturers who have deployed a signal chain strategy are farther ahead in their digital transformation journeys (76%) than those that have not (8%).

“Our survey demonstrates the effectiveness of this approach,” added Stu Johnson, Rootstock’s VP of product marketing, “and we expect to see early signal chain adopters thrive in the year ahead, armed with the data needed to make better decisions that drive growth.”

About the Author

Scott Achelpohl

I've come to Smart Industry after stints in business-to-business journalism covering U.S. trucking and transportation for FleetOwner, a sister website and magazine of SI’s at Endeavor Business Media, and branches of the U.S. military for Navy League of the United States. I'm a graduate of the University of Kansas and the William Allen White School of Journalism with many years of media experience inside and outside B2B journalism. I'm a wordsmith by nature, and I edit Smart Industry and report and write all kinds of news and interactive media on the digital transformation of manufacturing.