“We’ve seen 20 years of evolution in two years.” This is how Blake Moret, CEO of Rockwell Automation, describes the findings of the company’s 8th Annual State of Smart Manufacturing Report. The survey asked 1,353 global manufacturers about their deployment and plans for smart technologies.
The report provides key trends from the results, such as:
Almost twice as many respondents say they lack the technology to outperform the competition compared to last year’s Manufacturers’ Survey believe technology can be very helpful or extremely helpful in addressing workforce challenges
Skilled labor – and labor of any kind – remains elusive around the world. As manufacturers look for opportunities for profitable growth, they are finding that uncertainty in labor availability is affecting quality. These issues also affect manufacturers’ ability to meet the needs of their customers. Manufacturers address this impact by using technology to extract data from their operations and gather actionable insights.
We turn to technology for solutions
Technology helps manufacturers with agility and competitive differentiation. The message of this report is that manufacturers see technology as an opportunity to improve quality, agility and innovation. Technology also helps attract the next generation of talent. Manufacturers expect to reduce risks through technology. They use it to build resilience and drive future success.
With increasing levels of automation, manufacturers are raising the bar for technology. The report shows that manufacturers see the time to act now:
75% of companies will adopt some smart manufacturing component by the end of 2022. 60% of all companies are now either using a fully integrated solution or have some smart manufacturing components in the pipeline. 79% of companies prioritize software that can be used to automate processes
The unprecedented pace of technology adoption is creating competitive pressures across the industry. “To make finding the right solution easier, manufacturers should focus on choosing a technology that does more than just access data, but provides insights and analytics that align with business value drivers and specific pain points in your organization solve,” Jerry Foster, co-founder and CTO at Plex, a Rockwell Automation company, told Design News. “Respondents indicated that access to these insights is necessary to maintain a competitive advantage.
Sustainability and environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues have become integral parts of manufacturing. The survey found that over 95% of respondents have identified some level of sustainability and/or ESG policies, whether formal or informal, in the past two years. Regulations are now putting pressure on all companies across the value chain to address sustainability and ESG in their operations. The report shows that manufacturers see smart manufacturing technology as a solution to support sustainability and ESG.
Artificial intelligence awakens
Over 50% more manufacturers are using machine learning and artificial intelligence compared to last year. Rockwell researchers predict this number will continue to rise as manufacturers realize the impact that accessible machine learning/artificial intelligence can have on their business. Improved quality, productivity and employees using data insights for decision making are some of the benefits.
Yet a third of manufacturers are hampered by “technology paralysis” – the inability to choose between solutions. “Although more and more manufacturers are adopting smart manufacturing technologies, they report that they still struggle to use this data to make impactful decisions,” Foster said. “Also, the variety of available systems and platforms leads to technological paralysis for many respondents and they cannot decide between solutions.”
Rockwell researchers are very optimistic about the technology’s prospects in manufacturing. An overwhelming majority of participants report plans to deploy smart manufacturing technology. “While the landscape is unpredictable, history shows that adversity fuels innovation and creates opportunity. Manufacturers with the right vision, strategy, willingness to act and partners will seize this moment to outperform their competitors and forge a bright future,” the report’s authors said in a statement.