Only 15% of manufacturers have real-time visibility into their operations

New research conducted on behalf of Zebra Technologies shows that 54% of manufacturers in Europe (61% globally) expect AI to drive growth by 2029, up from 37% (41% globally) in 2024.

According to Zebra’s 2024 Manufacturing Vision Study this surge in AI adoption, combined with 92% of survey respondents prioritising digital transformation, underscores the intent of manufacturers to improve data management and leverage new technologies that enhance visibility and quality throughout the manufacturing process.

However, while digital transformation is a priority for manufacturers, delivering it is costly and there are significant challenges in terms of the availability of labour, scaling technology solutions, and the convergence of information technology and operational technology (IT/OT).

Visibility is the first step to transformation and the adoption of AI and other new technologies enables manufacturers to leverage data more effectively to identify, react and prioritise problems.

Projects that can deliver incremental efficiencies across the manufacturing process were found to net the greatest impact upfront.

“Manufacturers struggle with using their data effectively so they recognise they must adopt AI and other digital technology solutions to create an agile, efficient manufacturing environment,”

Enrique Herrera, Industry Principal for Manufacturing, Zebra Technologies.

Although manufacturers say digital transformation is a strategic priority, achieving a fully connected factory remains elusive.

Visibility is key to optimising efficiency, productivity, and quality on the plant floor, yet a large visibility gap exists. Only 15% of manufacturing leaders in Europe (16% globally) globally report they have real-time, work-in-progress (WIP) monitoring across the entire manufacturing process.

While 57% of manufacturing leaders globally (compared to 49% in Europe) expect to increase visibility across production and throughout the supply chain by 2029, one-third say getting IT and OT to agree on where to invest is a key barrier to digital transformation.

Adding to these obstacles, 84% of European manufacturing leaders (86% globally) agree they are struggling to keep up with the pace of technological innovation and to securely integrate devices, sensors, and technologies throughout their facilities and supply chain.

Zebra’s study found manufacturers are shifting their growth strategies by integrating and augmenting workers with AI and other technologies to transform manufacturing and build a skilled workforce over the next five years.

Nearly three-quarters of manufacturing leaders (71% in Europe, 73% globally) plan to reskill labour to enhance data and technology usage skills, and seven in 10 (70% globally compared to 62% in Europe) expect to augment workers with mobility-enabling technology. The technology tools being implemented by manufacturing leaders include tablets (54% in Europe, 51% globally), mobile computers (54% in Europe, 55% globally), and workforce management software (57% in Europe, 56% globally). In addition, 61% of manufacturing leaders plan to leverage wearable mobile computers to augment their evolving workforce.

Manufacturing leaders across the C-Suite, IT and OT understand how labour initiatives must extend beyond improving worker efficiency and productivity with technology. Six in 10 leaders rank ongoing development (61% in Europe, 65% globally), retraining/upskilling (66% in Europe, 65% globally), and career path development (63% in Europe, 62% globally) to attract future talent as a high priority for their organisations.

The research found that the quest for quality has intensified as manufacturers across segments must do more with fewer resources. According to the survey, global manufacturing leaders say today’s most significant quality management issues are real-time visibility (28% in Europe, 33% globally), keeping up with new standards and regulations (28% in Europe, 29% globally), integrating data (26% in Europe, 27% globally), and maintaining traceability (23% in Europe, 27% globally).

Manufacturing leaders’ technology implementation plans will address these challenges. Over the next five years, many plan to implement robotics (63% in Europe, 65% globally), machine vision (66% in Europe and globally), radio frequency identification (RFID) (62% in Europe, 66% globally), and fixed industrial scanners (53% in Europe, 57% globally).

Most manufacturing leaders agree these automation solutions are driven by a variety of factors including the need to provide the workforce with high-value tasks (69% in Europe, 70% globally), achieve service level agreements (69% in Europe and globally), and add more flexibility to the plant floor (63% in Europe, 64% globally).

KEY REGIONAL FINDINGS

 ASIA PACIFIC (APAC)

  • While only 30% of manufacturing leaders use machine vision across the plant floor in APAC, 67% are implementing or planning to deploy this technology within the next five years.

EUROPE

  • In Europe, reskilling labour to enhance data and technology usage skills is the top ranked workforce strategy for manufacturing leaders to drive growth today (46%) and in five years (71%).

LATIN AMERICA (LATAM)

  • While only 24% of manufacturing leaders rely on track and trace technology in LATAM, 74% are implementing or plan to implement the technology in the next five years.

NORTH AMERICA

  • In North America, 68% of manufacturing leaders rank deploying workforce development programmes as their most important labour initiative.

Resumen en Español: 

Según el Estudio de Visión de la Manufactura 2024 de Zebra, la adopción de IA y la transformación digital son prioritarias para el 92% de los encuestados, subrayando la intención de mejorar la gestión de datos y la calidad en el proceso de manufactura. A pesar de esto, enfrentar los costos y desafíos como la disponibilidad de mano de obra y la convergencia de IT/OT sigue siendo complicado. La visibilidad es esencial para la transformación, permitiendo a los fabricantes usar los datos para identificar y priorizar problemas. Proyectos que ofrecen eficiencias incrementales en el proceso de manufactura son los más impactantes. Sin embargo, solo el 15% de los líderes en Europa tienen monitoreo en tiempo real del proceso de manufactura completo. Aunque muchos planean aumentar esta visibilidad para 2029, el desacuerdo entre IT y OT sobre las inversiones es una barrera significativa.

Enrique Herrera de Zebra Technologies menciona que los fabricantes luchan por usar efectivamente sus datos y necesitan adoptar IA para crear un entorno manufacturero ágil y eficiente. A pesar de que la transformación digital es una prioridad estratégica, lograr una fábrica completamente conectada es difícil debido a un gran vacío de visibilidad. El estudio destaca que, para superar estos obstáculos, los líderes planean reskilling y tecnología móvil para mejorar las habilidades laborales. Además, muchos implementarán robots, visión artificial, RFID y escáneres industriales en los próximos cinco años para enfrentar los desafíos de calidad y flexibilidad. Finalmente, el estudio revela diferencias regionales significativas en las estrategias y tecnologías de manufactura adoptadas en Asia Pacífico, Europa, América Latina y Norteamérica.