Plant & Works Engineering
New State of Smart Manufacturing Study
Published:  15 March, 2023

Rockwell Automation has announced the results of the 8th annual study, “The State of Smart Manufacturing,” offering valuable insights into trends, challenges, and plans for global manufacturers.

The global study surveyed more than 1,350 respondents from 13 countries, including several in Europe, such as the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Germany.

The company says the clear message coming from this report is that the manufacturers view technology as an advantage for improving quality, agility, and innovation and attracting the next generation of talent.

“Manufacturers expect to mitigate risk through technology, tighter processes, and people to build resiliency and drive future success,” according to Sachin Mathur, director of software and control, EMEA, Rockwell Automation. “We hope industry finds the report useful in benchmarking their organisations and as a catalyst for taking action to drive transformation that will deliver differentiated business outcomes in your industry.”

Additional key global findings include:

Globally, twice as many respondents say they lack the technology to outpace the competition compared with last year’s surveying. Recent years have made a compelling business case for many newer technologies, as market conditions have demanded accelerated adoption, and this unprecedented pace of change is creating competitive pressure across the industry. In Europe, only 39% of respondents identified technology as an obstacle to outpacing the competition, compared with the global average of 43%.

Sustainability and ESG are integral to manufacturing. More than 95% of global respondents noted some level of sustainability and/or ESG policy over the past two years, whether formal or informal. Regulations are applying pressure across the value chain for all companies to address sustainability and ESG in their operations. Europe lags behind the global average, with just 91% of organisations claiming to have some ESG policy.

50% more global manufacturers are using machine learning and artificial intelligence compared with last year. This number will continue to rise as manufacturers see the impact that accessible machine learning can have on improving their business outcomes.

Overall, a third of global manufacturers are challenged by technology paralysis and the inability to decide between solutions. Technology is demonstrated throughout the report as being crucial to mitigating risk and delivering growth. So, manufacturers must overcome indecision by choosing a partner with relevant expertise and experience who can advise and guide them in implementing a fit-for-purpose solution.

97% of global participants reported plans to use smart manufacturing technology to enable and optimise more agile, resilient production processes, empowering the workforce to manage risk, drive sustainability, and accelerate transformation.

Amongst global respondents managing people and resources (40%) is seen as the biggest leadership challenge in the next year. Europe agrees, but assessing business needs and technology/talent fit ranks first at 36.8%, followed by effectively managing people and resources at 36.5%

Other European perspectives:

When it comes to considering how helpful technology can be in addressing workforce challenges, 65% of European organisations consider it at least very helpful. However, this figure was well behind global leaders, with the US (84%), India (83%), and Mexico (80%) leading the way.

Of those who have already adopted smart manufacturing initiatives, 39% of European companies say that the main barrier to adopting smart manufacturing is the cost of smart manufacturing initiatives. Close behind was the lack of knowledge of smart manufacturing technology and its benefits, at 38%.

When it comes to the percentage of operating budget invested in technology, India leads the way at 34.71%, followed by the US at 26.96%, and Japan at 24.23%. Europe was well below the global average, investing only 21.6% of operation budgets towards technology.

“While the landscape is not predictable, history clearly shows that adversity ignites innovation and creates opportunity. Manufacturers with the right vision and strategy bias for action and partners will seize this moment to outpace our competitors and forge a bright future,” Mathur concluded.

The full findings of the report can be found here.