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Manufacturers struggle with tech adoption amidst 2024 goals, Wipfli report finds

Wipli LLP’s State of Manufacturing 2024 Outlook Report unveils industry trends toward prioritizing AI, automation, and robotics — but lag behind in implementation

Wipli LLP’s State of Manufacturing 2024 Outlook Report unveils industry trends toward prioritizing AI, automation, and robotics — but lag behind in implementation
Wipli LLP’s State of Manufacturing 2024 Outlook Report unveils industry trends toward prioritizing AI, automation, and robotics — but lag behind in implementation

The rise of AI technology offers a double-edged sword of increased productivity and subsequent skills shortages in the manufacturing sector. 

But when you throw in a few more positives like reducing carbon, minimizing waste, and overall sustainability benefits, the pressure is on for manufacturing companies to get on board with new tech.

Just how far has tech come in day-to-day practice, and how are manufacturing companies approaching their 2024 business goals? 

Wipfli surveyed 330 manufacturing execs (primarily in California, Wisconsin, and Texas) to find out. Common points of interest include AI, robotics, and overall technology investment.

Here are some more detailed highlights from the report: 

AI and robotics are in 2024 plans, but not yet implemented

Most survey respondents have big goals for 2024 — primarily increasing product sales in both existing markets (87%) and new markets (75%). Still, not even half of the companies surveyed have a production capacity between 81% to 100%.

Recent research from industry publication The Manufacturer highlights the efficiency of digitalization, specifically in creating a digital twin of the manufacturing lifecycle. A digital twin in manufacturing is like a computerized clone of a physical thing or process, made using live data from sensors. 

This helps to explore and evaluate your process before implementation, which minimizes risk and boosts productivity with invaluable performance insights.

The thing is, you need AI, automation, and robotics to pull that off. 

When asked what technologies are currently being used, cloud computing topped the list with 62% of respondents, and AI was utilized the least. 

Let’s take a closer look at those numbers and where today’s manufacturing companies are going next:

Technologies currently being used:

  • Cloud computing: 62%
  • Data analytics/ business intelligence: 60%
  • ERP: 59%
  • Mobile devices: 56%
  • CRM: 56%
  • Production/machine monitoring: 53%
  • Robotics and automation: 47%
  • Internet of Things (IoT platform): 36%
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI): 36%

Tech investment plans for the next year:

  • Robotics and automation: 50%
  • Cloud computing: 47%
  • Data analytics/business intelligence: 41%
  • Artificial Intelligence: 41%
  • Production/machine monitoring: 36%

The report also cited inflation and recession as a common worry for about a third of respondents, which contribute to a whole other list of barriers to tech adoption.

High costs and little training top barriers to new tech

A large majority of manufacturing companies haven’t yet adopted tech like AI and robotics despite planning to in the next year or so. 

The culprit? Little tech expertise and expensive costs. Indeed, the Canadian Manufacturing Trends Report from 2023 cites a profound labor shortage resulting from that gap in tech expertise, with companies rapidly investing in upskilling to adequately adapt to new tech.

Additionally, a significant proportion (37%) cite legacy systems as a hurdle since they aren’t easily integrated with new tech. An equal number of execs cite company and employee resistance to change as a barrier as well.

These are the most frequently cited barriers to implementation cited in the report:

  • Insufficient workforce training and technical expertise: 61%
  • High costs: 54%
  • Data and cybersecurity concerns: 40%
  • Integration with existing systems: 37%
  • Resistance to change: 37%
  • Lack of awareness of smart factory benefits: 36%

The report suggests continued investment in growth opportunities, operational automation, and better wages to attract talent will give the sector the boost it needs to keep up with its evolving tech landscape and business needs.

Read the full report from Wipfli here.

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Written By

Veronica Ott is a freelance writer and digital marketer with a specialization in finance and business. As a CPA with experience in the industry, she's able to provide unique insight into various monetary, financial and economic topics. When Veronica isn't writing, you can find her watching the latest films!

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