Only 16% of Manufacturers Have Real-Time Visibility into Manufacturing

Only 16% of Manufacturers Have Real-Time Visibility into Manufacturing

July 1, 2024
Goal is to increase visibility across supply chain, says new survey from Zebra Technologies.

 A majority of manufacturers -- 61% -- AI to drive growth by 2029, up from 41% in 2024, according to a new survey from Zebra Technologies, 2024 Manufacturing Vision Study.

This surge in AI adoption, combined with 92% of survey respondents prioritizing digital transformation, underscores manufacturers’ intent to improve data management and to enhance visibility and quality throughout the manufacturing process, the report concludes. 

There are however a number of obstacles that companies are facing including the cost and availability of labor, scaling technology solutions, and the convergence of information technology and operational technology (IT/OT). 

“Manufacturers struggle with using their data effectively so they recognize they must adopt AI and other digital technology solutions to create an agile, efficient manufacturing environment,” said Enrique Herrera, industry principal for Manufacturing, Zebra Technologies, in a statement. 

Focusing on Closing Visibility Gaps

Although manufacturers say digital transformation is a strategic priority, achieving a fully connected factory remains elusive. Only 16% of manufacturing leaders globally report they have real-time, work-in-progress (WIP) monitoring across the entire manufacturing process.

While nearly six in 10 manufacturing leaders expect to increase visibility across production and throughout the supply chain by 2029, one-third say getting IT and OT to agree on where to invest is a key barrier to digital transformation.

Adding to these obstacles, 86% of manufacturing leaders agree they are struggling to keep up with the pace of technological innovation and to securely integrate devices, sensors, and technologies throughout their facilities and supply chain. 

Augmenting the Workforce, Elevating Value and Efficiency

The study found manufacturers are shifting their growth strategies by integrating and augmenting workers with AI and other technologies to transform manufacturing and build a skilled workforce over the next five years.

 Nearly three-quarters (73%) of manufacturing leaders plan to reskill labor to enhance data and technology usage skills, and seven in 10 expect to augment workers with mobility-enabling technology.

The technology tools being implemented by manufacturing leaders include tablets (51%), mobile computers (55%), and workforce management software (56%). In addition, 61% of manufacturing leaders plan to leverage wearable mobile computers to augment their evolving workforce.

Manufacturing leaders across the C-Suite, Information Technology (IT), and Operational Technology (OT) understand how labor initiatives must extend beyond improving worker efficiency and productivity with technology. Six in 10 leaders rank ongoing development, retraining/upskilling, and career path development to attract future talent as a high priority for their organizations.

Advancing Automation to Optimize Quality

The quest for quality has intensified as manufacturers across segments must do more with fewer resources. According to the survey, global manufacturing leaders say today’s most significant quality management issues are real-time visibility (33%), keeping up with new standards and regulations (29%), integrating data (27%), and maintaining traceability (27%).

Manufacturing leaders’ technology implementation plans will address these challenges. Over the next five years, many plan to implement robotics (65%), machine vision (66%), radio frequency identification (RFID) (66%), and fixed industrial scanners (57%). Most manufacturing leaders agree these automation solutions are driven by a variety of factors including the need to provide the workforce with high-value tasks (70%), achieve service level agreements (69%), and add more flexibility to the plant floor (64%).

Key Regional Findings

Asia Pacific (APAC)

  • While only 30% of manufacturing leaders use machine vision across the plant floor in APAC, 67% are implementing or planning to deploy this technology within the next five years.

Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA)

  • In Europe, reskilling labor to enhance data and technology usage skills is the top ranked workforce strategy for manufacturing leaders to drive growth today (46%) and in five years (71%).

Latin America (LATAM)

  • While only 24% of manufacturing leaders rely on track and trace technology in LATAM, 74% are implementing or plan to implement the technology in the next five years.

North America

  • In North America, 68% of manufacturing leaders rank deploying workforce development programs as their most important labor initiative.

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