Study: 3/4 of manufacturers lagging with smart initiatives

May 12, 2020
"We are seeing a growing appetite to adopt smart manufacturing practices."

Plex Systems announced the results of its fifth-annual study, the State of Manufacturing Technology, which was developed with the support of the research and analyst firm LNS Research. It found that among global manufacturers, only 24% have currently implemented a smart-manufacturing initiative. Another 22% are in the pilot stages.

“Smart manufacturers have better control and visibility across their operations than their peers, allowing them to more quickly and accurately adjust to changing market conditions, including crises such as COVID-19,” said Jerry Foster, chief technology officer, Plex Systems. “While most companies surveyed do not identify as smart manufacturers today, what is encouraging is that we are seeing a growing appetite to adopt smart manufacturing practices. This appetite, combined with an increasingly reliable blueprint for success as demonstrated by industry leaders, indicates that the smart manufacturing movement will only increase from here.”

In addition to tracking the adoption of smart-manufacturing practices, the survey also found that companies that have realized the benefits of smart-manufacturing pilot programs achieve this success by:

  • Clearly defining desired business outcomes

  • Identifying the processes, technology and training necessary to achieve business outcomes 

  • Successfully implementing the technology and driving adoption to fully realize the expected value

“Our new research shows that companies successfully transforming into smart manufacturers are building on robust (yet flexible) business and operational systems,” said Matt Littlefield, president and principal analyst at LNS Research. “Without an integrated approach to manufacturing software that can deliver a single source of truth, manufacturers will likely find themselves losing the competitive battle for agility and making sub-optimal decisions in siloes.” 

The report, which you can access here, noted that: 

  • Manufacturers believe future growth will rely on operational improvements, such as cost reductions (37%), increased capacity (24%), and new production initiatives (40%).
  • In the next 12-18 months, manufacturers plan to fund new production technology (44%) followed by operational systems, such as industrial automation, Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM)/Manufacturing Execution System (MES), and Enterprise Manufacturing Intelligence (EMI) (34%). However, given the widespread impact of COVID-19 since this survey was conducted, one can expect that the pandemic could shift future investments toward supply chain planning technologies. According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Manufacturers from Feb. 28–March 9, 2020, 35.5% of its member companies were facing supply chain disruption.
  • The three most-hyped technologies are 3D printing/additive manufacturing (28%), followed by machine learning tied with industrial-hardened devices (24%), and blockchain (23%). These findings indicate that while specific applications are seeing success, there is not yet a clear path to their application within manufacturing environment.

Want more insights like this? Join us during the Smart Industry Base Camp webinar series. Learn more here.