Survey: Manufacturers need to adopt smart technologies, but lack the talent, training and money to do so

There is a gap between business leaders who think smart manufacturing technology would help them improve workplace operations and whether they are actually willing to invest in this technology.

That’s according to a new report released this week by Michigan Headquarters. Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) in collaboration with CESMII – The smart manufacturing institutetitled 2022 Smart Manufacturing Market Survey.

The report comes a day before SME’s in-person event, the Smart manufacturing experience, at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh. The event will include panel discussions, networking and more in hopes of demonstrating new ways for small and medium-sized manufacturing companies to use smart manufacturing technology – which SME says includes technologies and processes such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, augmented reality and virtual reality, automation and robotics and cybersecurity.

SME interviewed more than 250 manufacturing staff and executives for the report. While 77% of respondents said they believed smart manufacturing would increase business competitiveness, only half of those surveyed said their company was willing to invest in financial resources and technology related to smart manufacturing initiatives. smart manufacturing.

Read the report

The report notes that these statistics demonstrate widespread interest in adopting smart manufacturing practices, but a slow pace of adoption. This gap is further underscored by the fact that while two-thirds of companies are preparing or implementing a smart manufacturing strategy, only around 42% of respondents said their organization has a number of employees dedicated to smart manufacturing initiatives. smart manufacturing, which once again shows a limitation. resources dedicated to these programs.

Some of this could be related to long-term workforce development strategies. Three in five survey respondents said the biggest challenge for their companies in adopting smart manufacturing is finding qualified people who can lead and drive relevant initiatives. The second most reported challenge by respondents was the cost of implementing smart manufacturing strategies. Notably, only 10% of respondents indicated that their companies have a portion of their budget dedicated to smart manufacturing programs.

“The part that always proves to be a challenge is the ability to connect that value to compelling ROI, and their commitment to investing their financial resources in smart manufacturing initiatives,” said John Dyck, CEO of CESMII, in a press release. “To us, it’s clear that manufacturers are struggling to find objective, authoritative and reliable sources for smart manufacturing resources and education. The level of “noise” in the market is high, making it extremely difficult for them to know where to turn for reliable information and advice. »

There seems to be an understanding of the benefits that smart manufacturing programs can deliver. The problem is the need for more funding and workforce education.

These challenges with educating and training the workforce are further underscored by the 82% of respondents who said that the lack of executive leadership in smart manufacturing programs had a severe or major impact on business. progress of these programs. In response to the same question, only around 28% of respondents indicated that a challenge in advancing smart manufacturing for their company was that initiatives were not seen as a top priority. The report concluded that this stems from a disconnect between the actions of high-level executives and general corporate messaging around smart manufacturing (something the report suggests can be corrected with support from organizations like SME and CESMII).

With this support and other businesses likely to take advantage of the business opportunity to fill the gaps exemplified by this support, the hope is that the financial and workforce development challenges will dissipate for small and medium sized businesses. manufacturing companies. Clearly, according to the report summary, the benefits that smart manufacturing programs can deliver are well understood, and the problem really lies in the need for more financial resources and workforce training to implement place these initiatives. And inevitably, opportunities related to those goals will be available at the Pittsburgh conference this week.

“No aspect of manufacturing will be as important to the future of the industry as digital transformation and the talent and ability to adopt smart technology in the production environment,” said Jeannine Kunz, director of workforce development for the SME. “Our discussions with leading manufacturers reveal that digital transformation is not only a competitive minimum over the next decade, for companies large and small, but is also neither financially nor technologically out of reach for the [small to medium manufacturers] manufacturing base.

Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member of Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by Heinz endowments. -30-

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