Survey highlights progress and barriers to smart factory deployment

20 January 2020

A Europe-wide survey of over 200 manufacturers with more than 500 employees shows that deployment of smart factory initiatives is currently running at around 63% and is set to grow rapidly over the next five years. The remaining 37% identify as being in the ‘planning stage’.

Commissioned by teknowlogy Group, the research builds a business case for smart factories with nearly one-in-two respondents reporting a return on their investment in less than one year and almost two-thirds ranking smart factory as seven-out-of-10 or higher on their list of strategic priorities.

Commenting on the findings, Richard Sharod, vice president EMEA at Stratus Technologies said: “Smart factory initiatives are driving new levels of efficiency and profitability for industry as the business case for deployment gets stronger and stronger. This research demonstrates a desire among respondents to improve systems, outputs and quality while driving down costs, but also highlights the challenges that are holding back industry-wide deployment”.

The research also highlights that the biggest challenges with smart factory projects start with deployment. Over half of respondents stated that the cost of investment was a barrier to smart factory technology adoption along with just under 48% who were struggling to build a business case, while 47% of responders said a lack of skills was holding back their smart factory projects.

Greg Hookings, head of business development – EMEA for Stratus, said: “All in all, companies cited product quality, supporting digital transformation and enabling more efficient customisation of products as their primary goals when implementing a smart factory initiative. We are on the precipice of major change, and industry leaders must engage with specialists to ensure a smooth transition from current siloed operations to a connected factory floor”.

Implementations on the factory floor are one of several areas proving to be complex. Of those that are some way along their journey to achieving smart factory solutions, less than 9% analyse more than 75% of the data they hold, which suggests that the full benefits of smart manufacturing are yet to be exploited. This is likely to be in part due to the skills required for data analysis being in short supply, but there is also a question of where in a company the responsibility for analysis falls, according to JC Bodhuin, senior vice president at teknowlogy Group.

Looking to the future, respondents provided insight to the movement of data and the distribution of computing, a factor which may help identify the right place for data analysis. “While data analytics for smart factory today is typically in an on-premises data centre (46%), that is set to change. In only five years’ time, data analysed at the edge of the network will make up 35% of all data analysis, more than doubling what it is currently and bringing more analytical responsibility to operational engineers,” concludes Bodhuin. 

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