Digital Transformation

Only 16% of Manufacturers Gain visibility in Real-Time Production Data

Additional findings of high expected AI adoption growth suggests data utilization is key to increasing visibility

Zebra Technologies Corporation (NASDAQ: ZBRA), a leading digital solution provider enabling businesses to intelligently connect data, assets, and people, today announced the findings of its 2024 Manufacturing Vision Study. The study showed that 61% of manufacturers expect AI to drive growth by 2029, up from 41% in 2024. This surge in AI adoption, combined with 92% of survey respondents prioritizing digital transformation, underscores manufacturers’ intent to improve data management and leverage new technologies that enhance visibility and quality throughout the manufacturing process.

While digital transformation is a priority for manufacturers, achieving it is fraught with obstacles, including the cost and availability of labor, 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 prioritize problems and projects so they can deliver incremental efficiencies across the manufacturing process that can net the greatest impact upfront.

“Manufacturers struggle with using their data effectively so they recognize they must adopt AI and other digital technology solutions to create an agile, efficient manufacturing environment,” said Enrique Herrera, Industry Principal for Manufacturing, Zebra Technologies. “Zebra helps manufacturers work with technology in new ways to automate and augment workflows to achieve a well-connected plant floor where people and technology collaborate at scale.”

Zebra empowers manufacturers with strategic insights and technologies to advance the connected factory by boosting visibility, optimizing quality, and augmenting their workforces. To learn more about the top digital and automation challenges from Herrara and other experts, click here.

Focusing on Closing Visibility Gaps

Although manufacturers say digital transformation is a strategic priority, achieving a fully connected factory remains elusive. Visibility is key to optimizing efficiency, productivity, and quality on the plant floor, yet a large visibility gap exists. Only 16% of manufacturing leaders globally report they have real-time, work-in-progress (WIP) monitoring across the entire manufacturing process.

While nearly six in 10 manufacturing leaders 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, 86% of manufacturing leaders 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. Enterprises can use Zebra solutions to put their data to work, allowing for higher levels of security and manageability as well as new analytics that can elevate the performance of their business.

Augmenting the Workforce, Elevating Value and Efficiency

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 (73%) of manufacturing leaders plan to reskill labor to enhance data and technology usage skills, and seven in 10 expect to augment workers with mobility-enabling technology. The technology tools being implemented by manufacturing leaders include tablets (51%), mobile computers (55%), and workforce management software (56%). In addition, 61% of manufacturing leaders plan to leverage wearable mobile computers to augment their evolving workforce.

Manufacturing leaders across the C-Suite, Information Technology (IT), and Operational Technology (OT) understand how labor initiatives must extend beyond improving worker efficiency and productivity with technology. Six in 10 leaders rank ongoing development, retraining/upskilling, and career path development to attract future talent as a high priority for their organizations.

Advancing Automation to Optimize Quality

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 (33%), keeping up with new standards and regulations (29%), integrating data (27%), and maintaining traceability (27%).

Manufacturing leaders’ technology implementation plans will address these challenges. Over the next five years, many plan to implement robotics (65%), machine vision (66%), radio frequency identification (RFID) (66%), and fixed industrial scanners (57%). 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 (70%), achieve service level agreements (69%), and add more flexibility to the plant floor (64%).

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, MIDDLE EAST, AFRICA (EMEA)

  • In Europe, reskilling labor 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 programs as their most important labor initiative.

SURVEY BACKGROUND AND METHODOLOGY

Zebra commissioned Azure Knowledge Corporation to conduct 1,200 online surveys among C-Suite executives and IT and OT leaders within various types of manufacturing sectors, including automotive, electronics, food and beverage, and pharma and medical devices. Respondents were surveyed in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America.

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