Survey: Manufacturers Weary About Move to Smart Production

LIFT, the Detroit-based, Department of Defense-supported national manufacturing innovation institute released results of a survey in collaboration with platinum members Siemens and Kearney and partner SME that showed manufacturers see smart manufacturing as part of the future but need the guidance of a partner to minimize risk.
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Results of a survey from LIFT in Detroit showed manufacturers know they need to make the move to smarter manufacturing, but remain weary about its efficacy in returning profits. // Courtesy of LIFT
Results of a survey from LIFT in Detroit showed manufacturers know they need to make the move to smarter manufacturing, but remain weary about its efficacy in returning profits. // Courtesy of LIFT

LIFT, the Detroit-based, Department of Defense-supported national manufacturing innovation institute released results of a survey in collaboration with platinum members Siemens and Kearney and partner SME that showed manufacturers see smart manufacturing as part of the future but need the guidance of a partner to minimize risk.

“As a national manufacturing innovation institute, it is incumbent upon us to engage our ecosystem and partners, including world-class and global leaders such as Siemens and Kearney, to provide their specific expertise, to help the U.S. manufacturing base get out of the starting gate and start running more modernized, smarter manufacturing processes,” says Nigel Francis, CEO and executive director of LIFT.

The comprehensive survey of 500 leaders from small- and medium-sized businesses across several large U.S. manufacturing sectors, was conducted in September 2021 and was presented at a roundtable discussion at the WESTEC 2021 conference in Long Beach, Calif. in November.

It gauged the manufacturers preparedness and location on the journey towards a smarter manufacturing future. LIFT says it provided some clear guidance and pathways that could accelerate smarter manufacturing within organizations, namely through increased funding and consultation with experts.

“The sooner we can help, the more secure our national economy and resiliency will be as the survey clearly indicated that moving toward a smarter future could have tremendous and far-reaching benefits for U.S. manufacturing, including and more and better jobs coming back to the United States.”

According to the survey, 90 percent of the industry knows they must make the move to de-risk their organizations and labor supply, but the concept of making such a move is complex. Another fear is that many aren’t sure the return on investment (ROI) can be full realized, so they are looking for partners to help guide them.

More than half (59 percent) said their companies have already began using some level of smarter manufacturing in their production process. Almost the same number (58 percent), said the complexity of systems integration was the main challenge faced, while 70 percent identified the availability of workers overall as an issue.

“Some of our clients are looking for the next step change in manufacturing performance and see Smarter Manufacturing as a way to do that,” says Doug Mehl, partner at Kearney. “Not just productivity, but improved quality, shorter lead times, increased flexibility, and more resiliency.”

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