The State Of Manufacturing Technology, 2015

  • 40% of manufacturers interviewed draw a direct correlation between cloud technologies and their ability to innovate during the next five years.
  • 66% of manufacturers say that cloud technologies have already improved insights into its business.
  • 93% of manufacturers are using consumer tablets in their manufacturing operations.

Manufacturers consider cloud computing among the most important technologies in strengthening their competitive edge in the next five years.

These and other insights are from a report published by Plex Systems. The study is based on interviews with 130 manufacturers regarding their current and planned adoption of Big Data, cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT) and mobility technologies. Plex has taken a vendor-agnostic view of the technology innovations revolutionizing the shop floor, leaving the vendor-speak behind and delivering a solid research study that has useful insights.

89% of respondent manufacturers are global and growing, reporting rising revenue over the past five years. 39% have attained 20% growth during that time period. 67% are operating multiple manufacturing facilities with nearly 50% having international operations. The majority of respondents are U.S.-headquartered companies. All of these factors taken together illustrate why manufacturers who are growing quickly need scalable, secure technologies that can flex to the changing needs of their evolving business models. The report provides insights into four technologies manufacturers are relying on to accelerate growth.

Key take-aways from the study include the following:

  • 31% say they are currently evaluating big data needs and opportunities or plans to explore this area in the coming year.
  • 35% say that data analysis is the most important skill set for the next generation of employees, above historically vital skills such as mechanical engineering. The following graphic compares the skills manufacturers see as the most important for next-generation employees.
    skills manufacturing
  • 90% of manufacturers interviewed said that data security improved with the adoption of professionally managed cloud solutions.
    81% of manufacturers say that having a scalable, secure cloud platform improved mobile access to data.
  • 74% have better process integration with external stakeholders as a result of adopting cloud applications. Enabling and onboarding suppliers more efficiently, tracking and maintaining equipment, and more effectively managing facilities were also mentioned by manufacturers as process integration benefits of cloud applications.
  • 77% expect to increase plant or enterprise integration investments.The following graphic compares what initiatives manufacturers will be able to undertake in the next five years as a result of cloud technologies:  initiatives manufacturing
  • 66% are seeing improvements in plant productivity and 61% are attaining higher levels of product quality. Calibrating test equipment to ensure compliance to internal and industry standards while initiating and improving traceability plant-wide are two of the many areas where cloud applications are delivering higher quality production performance. 73% plan to enhance quality programs as a result of cloud technologies.
  • Beyond core manufacturing and ERP, 44% of manufacturers use at least one other cloud application. The most popular with manufactuers are storage and file sharing, expense management and CRM.
  • 81% of manufacturers say that having a scalable, secure cloud platform improved mobile access to data enterprise-wide.

Internet Of Things

  • More than 50% of manufacturing cloud transactions are machine-to-machine. The study defines this as any device with an IP address is exchanging data with the system of record in a typical distributed manufacturing environment.
  • Scanners (90%), consumer mobile devices (80%), IP-enabled tools and machines (55%), sensors (48%) and low-power Bluetooth devices (25%) are the most connected devices in manufacturing operations today. The following graphic compares the relative adoption rate of each device.
  • Using cloud-based quality management applications to ensure IP-enabled tools and machines stay in compliance is an emerging area the study found manufacturers interested in. Torque, tolerance and tool parameters can be accessed from the cloud and machines calibrated faster, improving accuracy, quality and production efficiency.


  • 64% of manufacturer respondents provide Apple phones or tablets to employees and 45% equip employees with Android devices.
  • 36% of manufacturer respondents are likely to incorporate smart glasses such as Google Glass into its technology portfolio in the next five years. Another 35% say smart glasses are overhyped.
  • 30% of manufacturer respondents reported taking advantage of webcams to improve repair and training processes. The convenience and versatility of video is being proven in Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO), field service and fixed asset management programs that rely on a global base of service providers.
Source: Forbes magazine, May 12th, 2015

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