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New study reveals 80 percent of manufacturers see smart manufacturing as key to future success

The survey’s nearly 300 respondents indicate the pandemic accelerated the need and adoption of smart manufacturing technologies, outpacing earlier predictions

Plex Systems, a provider of cloud-delivered smart manufacturing solutions, has released the results of its sixth annual study, the State of Smart Manufacturing.

This year’s study, which was conducted in collaboration with Hanover Research, highlights how manufacturers use smart technology to tackle today’s challenges and drive measurable return on investment, and are positioned to take advantage of future opportunities.

The findings demonstrate a need for smart manufacturing technology to address current challenges, including those heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, 83 percent of manufacturers say the pandemic has made adopting smart manufacturing technologies and processes a priority.

Bill Berutti, Plex Systems CEO, says: “The survey validates that smart manufacturing technologies are no longer a ‘nice to have’ nor a luxury item; they are imperative for businesses to survive.

“Smart manufacturing is powerful and transformative, but there are multiple ways to adopt these technologies based on individual business needs and work culture.

“With flexible platforms and connected plant floor solutions, manufacturers can target their most urgent needs and deploy technology that will drive real and immediate value for their organization.”

Last year’s survey indicated that smart manufacturing was still in its early stages of adoption, with as many as 23 percent of respondents saying they had no plans to deploy smart technologies in their organizations.

However, this year’s survey tells a much different story. While the majority of respondents see the value and need for smart manufacturing, more than 60 percent of those organizations that plan to adopt smart manufacturing intend to begin within the next 12 months.

This proves that smart manufacturing isn’t something that will happen in three to five years. It’s happening now.

According to a recent IDC MarketScape report, “The digital world has enabled a new reality. It will be the companies with the right mix of talent and software tools that will be best able to recover and thrive in these changing conditions.”

For example, Creative Foam, an expert in foams, nonwovens and adhesives for the automotive industry, pivoted its production lines from manufacturing automotive foam to manufacturing foam parts for ventilators.

Because they already had a cloud-based smart manufacturing solution, the Creative Foam team confidently pivoted their production to create in-demand foam components for ventilators all while many team members worked remotely. Since then, Creative Foam has pivoted back to its pre-Covid product focus seamlessly.

Tareq Falah, vice president, IT/IS at Creative Foam, says: “Our cloud-based system is a huge advantage for us.

“We don’t have to worry about having folks in the buildings to secure that on-premise hardware, to make sure the redundant power systems are available, to secure that infrastructure.”

The survey additionally found:

  • Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the top three needs for smart manufacturing technology are to increase efficiency, improve supply chain agility and support remote work.
  • Nearly three-fourths of the survey respondents are beginning to use technology to better connect the business, automate processes, and gain valuable business insights.
  • More than 100 percent growth in adoption of key technologies (for example, Industrial IoT, smart devices, machine learning, robotic process automation, cobots) in just the past year; proving that many smart manufacturing technologies have moved through the early “overhype” phases of adoption and are now considered mainstream.

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