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Study Shows Big Increase in Digital Readiness

Steve George Business Intelligence Manager SME
By Steve George Business Intelligence Manager, SME

While the manufacturing sector generates large amounts of data, relatively few companies have fully harnessed that data to improve operational efficiencies.

However, according to new SME Media research, there has been a huge change in digital readiness among manufacturing companies between 2018 and 2020, with many more companies indicating they are implementing or evaluating digital manufacturing strategies. Companies that can close “the digital gap” by tapping into the data they generate will uncover valuable insights to drive profits and growth.

Conducted jointly by SME and Plataine, the “2020 Trends in Global Manufacturing Study” survey was designed to help manufacturing decision makers prepare for and embark on their journey to digital manufacturing. The survey is based on more than 200 executives, decision makers and influencers from the industrial manufacturing industry, who were surveyed in February 2020. A similar study was conducted in 2018.

Digital Manufacturing Growing

Four in five respondents (84 percent) are currently implementing or evaluating digital manufacturing strategies whereas only 27 percent were doing so in 2018. Similarly, in 2020 only 12 percent of respondents are not interested in implementing digital strategies, compared with 55 percent in 2018. Respondents in the 2020 survey indicated their companies are making strides to become digital. Two-in-five respondents (41 percent) indicated their companies are at least “mostly digital” in 2020 (up from 26 percent).

This survey examined the level of digitization and respondents’ efforts and strategies for implementing Industry 4.0 and the Digital Factory. As in the 2018 study, companies were split into three groups: industry leaders, average, and late-adopters. “Industry leaders” were defined as companies expecting growth over the next three years and also reporting high quality standards.

Over the past two years, the ratio of industry leaders that are implementing (or have already implemented) an Industry 4.0 solution has doubled and today represents 69 percent of industry leaders. Also, industry leaders who understand the need and plan to implement Industry 4.0 solutions increased from 18 percent to 25 percent in 2020, compared to the 2018 survey.

The 2020 survey also shows a significant shift in market leaders that went mostly or fully digital, from 37 percent in 2018 to 58 percent today. Almost two-thirds of respondents that have already implemented a digital manufacturing strategy have a rework rate of 0-1.5 percent, which is lower than companies anywhere else on their digital journey.

Challenges in People, Integration

Over half of advanced manufacturers stated that their main challenge is to lower production costs and 51 percent are looking to improve on-time delivery and estimate delays.

The main hurdles advanced manufacturers are struggling with are a lack of human resources, chosen by 47 percent of respondents, and the potential complexity of integration (46 percent of respondents). The third main hurdle is lack of budget—checking in at 44 percent. The fourth is the need to improve cross-department workflows, at 36 percent. Top management should look into these hurdles and take action to overcome them if they wish to maintain their competitive advantage.

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