Survey: Leading Manufacturers Find Innovations Driven by Cloud and Connectivity


Plex Systems in Troy, which provides enterprise resource planning (ERP) software systems for manufacturers, today announced the release of its annual study, The State of Manufacturing Technology. In its third year, the study examines manufacturers’ use of technology from the shop floor to the top floor, often referred to as the fourth industrial revolution.

This year, the study finds four key reasons that the fourth industrial revolution has not only started, it has already become a major factor in manufacturing industry leadership.

The study surveyed more than 150 manufacturers including both mid-sized and large enterprises across a wide range of industries including automotive, aerospace, electronics, food and beverage, industrial manufacturing, and precision metal-forming.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) has been described as not only the next transformation in the way products are made and consumed via digital platforms and systems, but a fundamental revolution in how the world works in a new, connected era. The study found at least four major facets of 4IR are already in place.

The Cloud Powers Transformation

The cloud has resoundingly moved from “what’s next” to “what’s now” in manufacturing. That value is now firmly established, with 96 percent of survey respondents noting that improvements in connectivity to systems, machines, suppliers, and customers are a direct result of cloud systems.

Connectivity Drives Innovation

Connected manufacturing is among the most powerful technology-based shifts in a generation, just as important as the arrival of steam power, electricity or the automated production line (the first three industrial revolutions). The Internet of Things (IoT) is fueling the fourth revolution by making it easy to connect new devices, equipment, and sensors to the cloud. Today, manufacturers are connected by a network of people, materials, machines, systems, partners, devices, and even end-products. Seventy-four percent of this year’s respondents cited improved connectivity with mobile and personal devices, and more than half have improved industrial equipment integration using cloud technologies. Most importantly, 98 percent of respondents reported that cloud-based systems are a key enabler for continuous innovation.

— Supply Chains are Transforming

Not only is the cloud fueling a new era in industrial automation, it is also extending that connectivity to supply chain planning. By leveraging accurate, timely data from the shop floor and across the enterprise, 60 percent of those surveyed noted better supply chain performance using a cloud-based system of record. Seventy percent of respondents also noted improved communications with their own suppliers.

— Manufacturers are Tapping the Power of Big Data

As manufacturers connect their production lines, supply chains, and even their products to the cloud, the amount of data captured is growing exponentially. This year’s survey finds more manufacturers than ever are using that data to drive decision-making. Twice as many manufacturers are using analytics today as compared to last year’s study, and even more are planning implementations over the next five years. Half of respondents (48 percent) highlight data analysis as the most important skillset for their next generation of employees.

“The fourth industrial revolution is happening today on the manufacturing shop floor,” says Jerry Foster, CTO of Plex Systems. “This is an industry that has always been about applying the most advanced technology to simultaneously fuel efficiency and innovation. It is an industry that is always excited to experiment, to try new devices, machines, and ideas, whether that’s on the shop floor or across a global supply chain.”

The full report is available here.

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