Digital manufacturing readiness

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96% of employees at major manufacturers think businesses aren’t doing enough to reap the benefits of digitalization.

Elizabeth Engler Modic, Editor
emodic@gie.net

Manufacturing represents 10% of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) and jobs, driving 20% of the nation’s capital investment, 35% of productivity growth, 60% of exports, and 70% of business research and development (R&D) expenditure. However, results from a recent survey conducted by iBASEt shows 96% of employees at major manufacturers think businesses aren’t doing enough to reap the benefits of digitalization.

The March 2022 survey, conducted by iBASEt, a software company simplifying how complex products are built and maintained, collected responses from more than 400 manufacturing executives in the U.S. and U.K. involved in the medical device, aerospace & defense, industrial equipment, electronics, and ship building sectors. While the respondents confirmed Industry 4.0 advancements were critical to sustaining operations during pandemic shutdowns, most still struggle with a lack of system and process maturity, preventing operational data from being leveraged for decision-making.

With 72% noting they invested in new technologies during the pandemic and 98% responding they saw increased productivity, just 44% said the investment was providing them actionable data; 19% weren’t using any data insights.

While most manufacturers said they embrace the cloud – with 66% believing moving to the cloud will drive operational efficiency, few have fully transitioned. Even with 88% reporting they’re increasing investment in cloud technologies the next 12 months, just 21% have completely transitioned.

“A lack of digital maturity has been a big blocker for productivity in recent years,” Naveen Poonian, CEO, iBASEt, writes in the forward of the survey results. Acknowledging that Industry 4.0 and smart factory technology enabled manufacturers to continue fulfilling orders while employee access to factories was restricted, looking deeper shows “fundamental problems with the sector’s adoption and application of digital tools…in many cases the data generated, which should be driving business intelligence and informing smarter decision-making, is going to waste.”

Digitalization holds the path to manufacturing competitiveness through increased productivity via actionable data insights, but that requires change, which is sometimes hard to embrace.

Dr. Clive Hickman OBE, FREng, chief executive of the Manufacturing Technology Centre, wrote in the foreword of the published survey results the need for manufacturers to advance digitalization because, “The country that can do so the fastest will lead the world’s manufacturing sector into the middle of this century.”

Modernizing systems but not fully using data gleaned isn’t harnessing the power of digital to advance manufacturing, it’s risking being left behind. How is your company using digitalization to stay competitive?