Manufacturers participating in a survey indicated mixed progress in adopting digital factory technologies.
“The fourth industrial revolution (4IR) has been met with both enthusiasm and fence-sitting,” consulting firm PwC and the Manufacturing Institute said in a report. The institute is part of the National Association of Manufacturers.
“We see a definitive – and, indeed, inevitable – shift to 4IR as companies seek to integrate new technologies into their operations, supply chain and product portfolio.”
However, the report said progress toward achieving that is uneven.
By far, advanced robots have been the most deployed among the technologies involved. Sixty-five percent of respondents said they have brought in robots the past three years into their operations.
Other technology adoption is more mixed. Thirty-seven percent said they’ve adopted 3D printing, 35 percent said they’ve deployed advanced analytics and 31 percent cited the Internet of Things, where “connected” machines communicate with each other and human operators.
Manufacturers have been slower to adopted augmented reality (28 percent), virtual reality (19 percent) and artificial intelligence (18 percent).
“Despite performance improvements and lowered cost barriers of most 4IR technologies, the manufacturing sector still exhibits a broad range of adoption and experiences,” PwC and the institute said.
“Essentially we see three broad groups: fast-movers, fence sitters and laggers,” the report added. “Manufacturers are fairly evenly spread across the smart factory tech adoption curve.”
The survey had 96 respondents. They represented manufacturers of both industrial and consumer products. They were surveyed from December 2018 through February 2019.
Of that group, 48 percent said they were in “the early stages of a smart factory transition,” PwC and the institute said. Another 18 percent said they had “achieved complete smart factory transformation.”
On the other end, 20 percent said they “have a desire to adopt” but were stymied for various reasons. Another 16 percent said they “moved beyond proof-of-concept” and were laying the foundation toward smart factory technology.
“While the sector as a whole is making assertive forays into 4IR, many manufacturers still inhabit the awareness and pilot phases,” according to the report. “Despite the uneven nature of adoption of 4IR tech, companies are nevertheless looking to forge ahead.”
PwC and the institute said a majority of respondents said they plan to boost spending on smart factory tech. That included 28 percent who said they plan to spend up 10 percent more than the previous year and 27 percent who said they will boost investment by 10 percent to 25 percent.