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Joint survey reveals key trends in digital manufacturing space


July 1, 2018  


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A recent Trends in Digital Manufacturing survey, jointly conducted by SME, a manufacturing association promoting advanced manufacturing technologies, and Plataine, a provider of automated offerings for advanced manufacturing, contains key insights on plans for factory digitization.

The survey, which was completed by an estimated 400 C-level manufacturers from multiple industries including aerospace, automotive, furniture and chemicals, was designed to help advanced manufacturing managers prepare for the rapid advances in digital technology that are transforming factories. The survey reveals how factories intend to implement new digital technologies, which challenges are faced, and what benefits they envision.

Growth expectations were strikingly optimistic: the majority — 93% — of all respondents expect double or single-digit growth in the next year. Meanwhile, 84% of respondents reported they are already engaging in digital factory initiatives. These initiatives focused on four areas:

*Digitization of manual and paper-based processes;
*Supply chain collaboration;
*Smart shop-floor sensors; and
*Automation and robotics.

When industrial companies were asked which business pain points they hoped Industrial IoT/Industry 4.0 could address in the future, five themes became clear. The most popular, reported by 62 percent of respondents, was the hope that digitization could help increase manufacturing capacity.

Furthermore, firms reported on the challenges they face on the road to full digitization, mainly technical and organizational. Technical challenges center on the concern that factories do not have the necessary expertise to adopt advanced digital technology.

Organizational challenges center on human resources, such as the staff training to manage the real-time data that streams from different sources.

“Understanding the challenges the manufacturing community faces, and their plans in adopting advanced technologies is critical to success,” says Jeff Krause, executive director and CEO, SME. “Surveys such as our Trends in Digital Manufacturing report give us a good sense of progress made, trends to look for and how much work still needs to be done.”