Examining the extent in which manufacturers are leveraging industry 4.0, the MPI 2020 Industry 4.0 study titled ‘Industry 4.0 drives agility and productivity in manufacturing’ is the latest edition since the study began in 2016.
As the number of manufacturers embedding intelligence and/or smart devices into their operations as well as offering new products that incorporate these technologies increases, the study states that “the changes over time are clear: leaders recognise that their firms must digitise now – or become vulnerable to competition.”
Since starting in 2016, the 2020 study reports that the increased implementation of Industry 4.0 technologies and best practices have resulted in “enhanced productivity, revenues, profits and competitive advantages.”
The importance of Industry 4.0
When asked about the importance of Industry 4.0 for the manufacturing industry, the study concluded that nearly all manufacturing executives believed Industry 4.0 is important to their companies – 45% ‘extremely important and 38% ‘very important’ – with over half stating that it will have a ‘significant impact on industries and businesses in the next five years.
One of the drivers for this is the understanding that in today’s world, Industry 4.0 is a competitive differentiator (50%), due to its capability to improve finances, operations, and brand values across multiple functions and departments. 42% of executives believe that it is the future.
With such expectations for Industry 4.0, 47% of manufacturers have reported that they have strategies implemented to apply Industry 4.0 to their processes. However, only 37% have done this for their products.
Industry 4.0 enabled plants and processes
On average, the study uncovered that manufacturers have incorporated smart devices or embedded intelligence in 41% of their production processes and equipment, with 88% expecting this to increase in the next two years.
In addition to their production processes and equipment, manufacturers – on average – have incorporated smart devices or embedded intelligence into 33% of their non-production processes, with 86% expecting it to increase in the next two years.
It is expected among executives that Industry 4.0 initiatives for plants and processes are likely to be led by IT (31%), operations leadership (19%) or dedicated Industry 4.0 departments or functions (18%).
Focusing in on smart products, 46% of manufacturers state that embedding smart devices and/or intelligence into products is a significant focus of their production innovation plans, with a further 37% having ‘some plans to do so. In addition, two-thirds of manufacturers are embedding smart devices and/or intelligence into products such as goods, materials and software.
As a result, the study indicates that – on average – manufacturers are generating 38% of product sales from goods with embedded smart devices and/or intelligence, with a profit margin of 36% – on average – compared to 33% for other products.
However, executives in the study identified that alongside the benefits, the top challenges when embedding such technologies include:
- Identifying opportunities and benefits (53%)
- Accessing the required technologies (45%)
Building an Industry 4.0 future
In its final chapter, the study highlights that whilst it was conducted prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, it “offers hope for how Industry 4.0 might hasten the recovery of manufacturing in its aftermath.”
However in order to do so, the study explains four things that manufacturers will need to do:
- Establish enterprise-wide strategies for optimisation of Industry 4.0 implementations
- Manage initiatives for Industry 4.0 efficiently vs, strict return on investment criteria
- Creative thinking for how Industry 4.0 can improve agility and productivity for factories and facilities
- Partner with customers to embed into products for higher revenues, margins, and satisfaction