Report: Automation Alley Finds U.S. Manufacturers Embrace Industry 4.0 Despite Tech Barriers

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Automation Alley, a Southeast Michigan-based technology and manufacturing business association today released the findings of their 2017 Technology Industry Outlook during a presentation at the Detroit Institute of Arts. After conducting a survey of technology and manufacturing executives from across the country, Automation Alley determined many are ready to embrace Industry 4.0, and make technology as a critical part of their processes in 2017. However, despite plans for technological investment, Automation Alley believes there are still technological barriers from adopting Industry 4.0 across the entire manufacturing market

Industry 4.0 refers to the convergence of digital and physical technologies currently disrupting the manufacturing industry, including the Industrial Internet of Things, autonomous robotics, advanced materials, additive manufacturing, big data, cybersecurity, cloud computing, modeling, simulation, and visualization.

Held annually, the Technology Industry Outlook features technology demonstrations and a panel discussion on critical topics facing the manufacturing and technology industries, both locally and nationally. For this year’s report, Automation Alley conducted a survey of technology and manufacturing executives from across the country — including Automation Alley members — to determine their knowledge of Industry 4.0 and whether both industries are ready for the rapid changes ahead as technology transforms manufacturing.

According to the report, 85 percent of national manufacturing executives said their company plans to increase existing budgets for technological advancements, while nearly a third of them plan to increase their budgets by 10-15 percent. In addition, more than half of all national manufacturing executives reported that their company has a dedicated budget for Industry 4.0 technologies. The top three technologies the companies currently invest in are the cloud, cybersecurity, and big data and analytics. Locally, the Industrial Internet of Things and simulation (both at 42 percent), followed by autonomous robots, horizontal and vertical system integration, and the cloud (all at 33 percent) are a top priority for Automation Alley manufacturers.

Eighty eight percent of national manufacturing executives believe technological advancements can be beneficial to their competitiveness. The top technologies manufacturing executives believe will improve their competitiveness in 2017 are the cloud, big data and analytics, additive manufacturing, and cybersecurity.

Additionally, 52 percent of the national manufacturers surveyed have a dedicated budget and process to support the adoption of new technologies. Nonetheless, 68 percent of Automation Alley manufacturers reported having a dedicated budget and process to support the adoption of new technologies.

“Encouragingly, our survey results show that the Automation Alley manufacturing base seems to be more prepared for the Industry 4.0 transformation than their national counterparts,” says Tom Kelly, Automation Alley’s executive director. “However, we found that barriers to adoption remain at both a local and national level. In addition, there are striking communication gaps that exist between the technology and manufacturing executives surveyed.”

The top barriers for technological advancements as reported by national manufacturing executives are cost, uncertainty about which technology supplier has the best solution, and employees who are reluctant to change.

Founded in 1999, Automation Alley is Michigan’s leading technology business association. The non-profit includes 1,000 technology focused members in businesses, education, and government.  The organization focuses its efforts in five areas: advanced manufacturing, defense, entrepreneurship, international business, and talent development.

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