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Plex Systems Study Finds Three in Four Manufacturers Behind in Adopting Smart Manufacturing

May 7, 2020

The survey, based on 200 global businesses, indicates smart manufacturers achieve their status by achieving three key factors when planning and implementing pilot programs

TROY, Mich., May 7, 2020 – Plex Systems, which delivers the first smart manufacturing platform, today announced the results of its fifth annual study, the State of Manufacturing Technology. The study, which was developed with the support of the research and analyst firm LNS Research, found that among global manufacturers only 24% have currently implemented a smart manufacturing initiative. Another 22% are in the pilot stages. Smart manufacturing, which is also referred to as Industry 4.0, encompasses the convergence of physical and digital systems, leading to the rise of smart factories.

“Smart manufacturers have better control and visibility across their operations than their peers, allowing them to more quickly and accurately adjust to changing market conditions, including crises such as COVID-19,” said Jerry Foster, chief technology officer, Plex Systems. “While most companies surveyed do not identify as smart manufacturers today, what is encouraging is that we are seeing a growing appetite to adopt smart manufacturing practices. This appetite, combined with an increasingly reliable blueprint for success as demonstrated by industry leaders, indicates that the smart manufacturing movement will only increase from here.”

In addition to tracking the adoption of smart manufacturing practices, the survey also found that companies that have realized the benefits of smart manufacturing pilot programs achieve this success by:

  • Clearly defining desired business outcomes.
  • Identifying the processes, technology and training necessary to achieve business outcomes. 
  • Successfully implementing the technology and driving adoption to fully realize the expected value.

“Our new research shows that companies successfully transforming into smart manufacturers are building on robust yet flexible business and operational systems,” said Matt Littlefield, president and principal analyst at LNS Research. “Without an integrated approach to manufacturing software that can deliver a single source of truth, manufacturers will likely find themselves losing the competitive battle for agility and making sub-optimal decisions in siloes.”

    For Sanders and Morley Candy, a fine chocolatier, investing in new hardware and software through new production lines, automating packaging processes, and adopting a cloud-based ERP system have given the company greater visibility and control over its operations. This has empowered sales, enabled faster product testing and development, and allowed the company to redeploy its staff to complete higher-value tasks throughout the organization. These changes have helped the company achieve double-digit growth, with plans to reach $100 million in revenues in the coming years.

    The survey additionally found:

  • Manufacturers believe future growth will rely on operational improvements, such as cost reductions (37%), increased capacity (24%), and new production initiatives (40%).
  • In the next 12-18 months, manufacturers plan to fund new production technology (44%) followed by operational systems, such as industrial automation, Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM)/Manufacturing Execution System (MES), and Enterprise Manufacturing Intelligence (EMI) (34%). However, given the widespread impact of COVID-19 since this survey was conducted, we can expect that the pandemic could shift future investments toward supply chain planning technologies. According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Manufacturers from Feb. 28–March 9, 2020, 35.5% of its member companies were facing supply chain disruption.
  • The three most-hyped technologies are 3D printing/additive manufacturing (28%), followed by machine learning tied with industrial-hardened devices (24%), and blockchain (23%). These findings indicates that while specific applications are seeing success, there is not yet a clear path to their application within manufacturing envinronment.

Download the full report here.

Plex’s annual State of Manufacturing Technology survey collects information from global manufacturers to measure current technology use as well as future implementation and adoption plans. This year’s report compiled feedback from approximately 200 executives, business leaders, and IT, operations, and engineering professionals across a broad range of company sizes and geographies. The research focuses on manufacturers in the automotive, aerospace & defense, consumer goods, food and beverage, and industrial equipment industries.

About LNS Research

LNS Research provides research and advisory services to guide industrial companies through digital transformations. The firm’s research focuses on how digital technology drives transformations across the value chain and offers insights into the people, processes, and technologies required for achieving Operational Excellence. The firm’s publications include quantitative research on trends and best practices, as well as Solution Selection Guides. The company’s research analysts work with industrial companies, including manufacturers in discrete, batch, and process industries, to minimize risks associated with alignment, time, and cost in Industrial Transformation, from assessing readiness through solution selection and deployment. This work uses proven methodologies to drive convergence between IT and operations teams, and to empower team leaders to achieve goals and time-to-value, quickly and confidently.