to the M4.0 transformation, according to
Forty-two percent of manufacturers responding to the survey said they are still either becoming aware of M4.0 or conducting research. That compares to 34% who
said they were at these beginning stages last
year. Meanwhile, 25% this year said their
companies are implementing M4.0 projects—either companywide initiatives or
point projects. That compares to 37% that
said they were going so last year.
At the same time, fewer respondents—10%--described their production
and assembly processes as completely or
largely digitized today. That compares to
24% who said so last year.
Most manufacturers surveyed—64%--
still expect their assembly and production
processes to be completely or largely digitized in five years’ time. But, again, that
percentage represents a drop off compared
to the 75% that said so last year.
Clearly, more manufacturers are gaining
a greater understanding of the long road to
the digital transformation before them.
Joins the M4.0 Party
Manufacturers also appear to be rethinking which pro- cesses and functions within
their companies stand to benefit most
from M4.0. As they did in last year’s sur-
vey, manufacturers said their production/
assembly processes (62%), supply chain
processes (58%), and equipment mainte-
nance processes (57%) stand to benefit
most from M4.0 today. But, looking into
the future, manufacturers now see product
design (47%) and research and develop-
ment (42%) functions benefiting much
more from M4.0 in five years’ time. That,
perhaps, reflects an expectation that richer
IoT-enabled product performance data
will enhance the innovation cycle.
Supporting the idea that R&D and product development functions will participate
more directly in the M4.0-enabled manufacturing enterprise of the future, 88% of
respondents said their companies’ production and design processes will be extensively
or partially integrated electronically in five
years. That’s up from 37% saying so today.
Manufacturers’ expectations are evolving also when it comes to which M4.0 technologies will prove most beneficial. Seventy percent of manufacturers, for example,
said they now believe machine learning
and cognitive computing technologies
have the potential to make factories more
autonomous and self-healing. And 50%
of respondents said they are already using
prescriptive analytics—either extensively
or partially—to foresee and fix problems
on the plant floor. And 80% said they expect to be doing so in five years’ time.
Manufacturers also were positive about
their current use and their plans to expand
use of collaborative robotics, virtual real-ity/augmented reality technologies, and
To support all of this technology, manufacturers are aggressively expanding the
digital infrastructure inside their factories.
In fact, 84% of manufacturers said their
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processes to be
tized in five
Je; Moad is Research
Director and Executive
Editor with the Manufacturing Leadership