Digital Transformation

Survey: Manufacturers Must Close the Digital Transformation Gap

More than half report their organizations are hardly or somewhat prepared to address supply chain challenges

Parsec Automation Corp. (Parsec), the developer of TrakSYS™, an industry-leading manufacturing execution system (MES), today released the North American results of its 2023 State of Manufacturing survey. Overall, nearly three-quarters (73%) of manufacturers have begun the digital transformation process, with 40% reporting significant progress or completion. However, more than one-third (35%) still report relying on paper-based data collection, which suggests a significant gap among manufacturers’ willingness and preparedness to embrace today’s technology.

“Although manufacturers are steadily advancing towards digital transformation, there remains a significant scope for progress,” commented Eddy Azad, Founder and CEO of Parsec. “It’s heartening to note that over half (53%) of the survey participants are utilizing enabling technologies like MES. This insight underscores the need for technology providers to not only effectively showcase the benefits of their solutions, but also to furnish the requisite tools and education for the seamless and sustainable adoption of these transformative technologies.”

Manufacturers are pleased with digital transformation but may need to go further

Parsec’s survey findings suggest that manufacturers may be underutilizing technology or underestimating its capabilities. Among the respondents whose companies have reportedly “completed” their digital transformations, nearly one-third (31%) still collect most or all of their data using non-digital processes.

Despite their reliance on legacy data collection practices, a majority (71%) of respondents expressed positive sentiments about their organizations’ digital transformation initiatives. These findings indicate that while manufacturers may be pleased with their organizations’ technological progress, there is still ample opportunity for tech providers to educate their customers on pivotal value-adds like automated data collection and analysis.

Manufacturers express mixed feelings about MES platforms

When it comes to MES platforms, which leverage IIoT technologies to automate and optimize nearly every facet of manufacturing operations—from receipt of raw materials, through production, to shipping, warehousing, and distribution—more than one-quarter (27%) of respondents said they had never heard of MES before.

Among respondents who are familiar with MES but have yet to implement it in their organization, the vast majority (75%) say they haven’t done so because they do not have enough information on how the technology would benefit their specific operation.

Those who have adopted MES, however, are pleased with their results. An impressive three-quarters (75%) of respondents who are actively utilizing an MES platform said they were “very” or “extremely satisfied” with the product. These active users said they adopted the advanced technology to increase efficiency (73%), improve quality (57%), and reduce operating costs (47%).

Manufacturers continue to experience supply chain challenges

The survey data reveals that manufacturers are still experiencing supply chain challenges, with more than half (53%) reporting that their organizations are “hardly” or “somewhat” prepared to weather a storm. More than one-third (36%) shared that supply chain issues have been “very” or “extremely” challenging for their businesses.

Among all respondents, discrete manufacturers, who use assembly lines to produce goods like automobiles, seem to be experiencing the most disruption, with 48% of those organizations reporting continued challenges. Conversely, batch manufacturers, who produce goods like food and pharmaceuticals, appear to be handling supply chain disruptions the best, with less than one-third (29%) reporting continued challenges.

Labor shortfalls impede meaningful progress

Hiring and retention remain a challenge for many manufacturers, and nearly half (46%) cite these difficulties as direct impediments to adopting advanced technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Without enough skilled, knowledgeable workers on the payroll, manufacturers face an uphill climb in their digitalization initiatives—indeed, half (50%) said the lack of skilled applicants is the most challenging aspect of staffing.

With half (50%) sharing that line workers are the hardest roles to fill, it’s clear that what manufacturers need most are additional dedicated, talented associates to operate their day-to-day equipment.

Manufacturers anticipate using AI/ML, but are admittedly not prepared

Across the industry, manufacturers are keenly aware of the trajectory of today’s technology, with more than half (52%) agreeing that enterprise software solutions should include capabilities for AI and ML.

At the same time, just one-third (34%) feel their business is prepared to leverage this advanced technology. When asked about the barriers standing in their way, respondents cited lack of knowledge (46%), lack of trust in the technology (39%) and implementation costs (33%).

“Manufacturers need to adopt advanced technology to propel the industry forward,” Azad elaborated. “Contemporary software solutions must be developed with enhanced accessibility and exceptional user experience in mind. It is imperative for technology providers to proactively engage with manufacturers, address their apprehensions, and offer guidance to fuel their success.”

To learn more about the results of Parsec’s 2023 State of Manufacturing Survey: North America, visit

Research Methodology

For the purposes of this report, Parsec spent several months surveying 530 manufacturing professionals in the United States and Canada.

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