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Technology and skills shortages are holding back manufacturers

14 March, 2023

A survey of 1,350 manufacturers in 13 countries has revealed that more than 40% of them are struggling to outpace their competitors due to a lack of technology and suitably skilled workforces.

Rockwell Automation’s eighth annual State of Smart Manufacturing Report finds that almost all of the manufacturers (97%) are using, or planning to use, smart manufacturing technologies in the coming 1-2 years. Almost half (45%) cite “improving quality” as the main positive outcome they want to achieve from these smart manufacturing initiatives, while cybersecurity is the biggest obstacle they are hoping to mitigate with the initiatives.

The manufacturers report that they are focusing on delivering profitable growth without sacrificing quality. They are adopting technology to mitigate risks, build resilience, enable agility, increase sustainability, and address workforce challenges.

Other findings in the report are that:
• 89% of the manufacturers are planning to maintain or expand their workforces as a result of adopting new technologies, while 36% believe that increased use of technology will allow them to repurpose their existing workers;
• for a third of manufacturers, the wide variety of available systems and platforms is leading to “technology paralysis” – an inability to choose between them;
• compared to 2022, twice as many manufacturers now believe their organisations lack the technology needed to outpace their rivals;
• around 80% of manufacturers lack end-to-end supply chain planning;
• of the 95% of manufacturers who have formal or informal ESG (environmental, social and governance) policies in place, 42% cite “improving efficiencies” as the main motivation for pursuing these initiatives;
• more than two-thirds of manufacturers believe technology can be helpful in addressing workforce challenges;
• at least 50% more manufacturers are using machine learning and AI (artificial intelligence) technologies than last year.

“Manufacturers are continuing to seek opportunities for profitable growth but are realising that uncertainty in workforce availability is impacting quality, along with their ability to meet evolving customer needs,” says Veena Lakkundi, Rockwell’s senior vice-president for corporate strategy and development. “The survey found that smart manufacturing technology is enabling manufacturers of all sizes to optimise more resilient, agile, and sustainable solutions that accelerate transformation. If we’ve learned anything from history, it’s that organisations that invest in innovation, with a bias for action, during times of uncertainty can outpace competitors.”

Lakkundi: organisations that invest in innovation can outpace competitors
Photo: Business Wire

This report analyses feedback from 1,353 respondents with roles ranging from management to the C-suite, and was conducted in association with Sapio Research and Plex Systems. The survey covered the discrete, process, and hybrid sectors, and companies with revenues from $10m to more than $10bn.

The report can be downloaded from Rockwell’s Web site.

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