The 8th annual State of Manufacturing Report has been released, and the data shows an industry eager to adopt new technologies in the face of economic uncertainty and workforce challenges.
For the report, Fictiv partnered with Dimensional Research to conduct a survey of over 240 leaders in engineering, supply chain, manufacturing and product development from a variety of industries — including medical devices, robotics, automotive, aerospace, and consumer electronics — to get a current, accurate representation of the manufacturing industry.
Today, we’re (mostly) clear of the pandemic and the supply chain disruptions of the past few years. New challenges have taken their place, but leaders have learned a thing or two from the trials of the recent past, and are rising to meet them.
Here’s how they’re getting it done.
In Trying Times, Efficiency and Innovation are King
In a world where geopolitical uncertainty, financial market instability, and inflation are mounting concerns, companies are focusing more than ever on driving innovation — 49% responded that increasing the speed of new product innovation was a top priority, an increase of 11% over last year.
In order to innovate quickly, you need a supply chain that can keep up, and you’ve got to understand where in your operations you can become more efficient. So it’s no surprise that leaders’ top business priority is to improve their manufacturing and supply chain visibility for the second consecutive year — you can’t streamline your operations without knowing where the points of friction are, after all.
And the need to innovate and get new products into the market more quickly is growing even as many leaders are working with smaller R&D budgets — which means companies need their product development teams working more efficiently. Yet, the trends show that engineers are spending more time on procurement tasks than ever before, and therefore spending less time on the engineering tasks that drive the innovation companies seek.
Something’s gotta give.
Technology Paves the Path to Success
We all know that people are critical to driving innovation, but the engineering and manufacturing talent companies need is hard to come by, and they’re finding it difficult to get the most out of their people — 95% of the leaders we polled are struggling with workforce issues. Analyzing and improving productivity is the top challenge, but companies can’t recruit the talent they need for open positions and are having trouble retaining employees, too.
So, what’s the solution? What are leaders doing to adapt?
The current macro environment is serving as a forcing function that’s pushing technology forward, and tech is providing the solutions that companies are looking for. While operating in an environment that requires them to do more with less, 78% of leaders are evaluating technologies that will help increase operational efficiency. And the recent surge in AI-powered software tools has made nearly everyone a believer in the power of the technology — 97% of respondents expect AI to impact product development and manufacturing.
That expectation matches the current reality. Over 90% of the companies surveyed are already using or are in the process of implementing supply chain analysis and visualization or product lifecycle management tools. And while those are the top two tools being used, on-demand manufacturing platforms are nearly as popular, with 88% of companies polled already working with or are in the process of incorporating them into their procurement strategy.
Digital Manufacturing is an Innovation Force Multiplier
A streamlined procurement strategy is a big piece of the innovation puzzle companies are trying to solve, and it’s key to reducing new products’ time to market. 56% of the companies surveyed are having trouble sourcing high quality parts in low volumes — the exact sorts of orders engineers need for rapid prototyping. And remember the bit earlier about engineers wasting time on procurement tasks? Working with the right digital manufacturer not only frees your team to spend those hours on refining and improving their designs, but also gives you a partner that delivers high quality components, no matter how small the order.
But digital manufacturers don’t just accelerate sourcing prototype parts through AI-powered instant quotes and DFM feedback, and fast production cycles, either. They help get everyone on the same page by providing a single platform that every interested party, across engineering and supply chain functions, can access on-demand with updated design, purchasing, quality, and tracking information for every order.
That’s a foundation for faster innovation, and the data shows that’s how companies are meeting the challenges of today and tomorrow.