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Robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence are making business processes smarter and more efficient, a Wipfli survey says.

Manufacturers are heading into the new year with a full head of steam for all things digital.

But there are roadblocks in the way, many of which are internal. Manufacturers also are prioritizing digital and technological advancement, but most still haven’t implemented robotics and automation. And they are not yet leading on artificial intelligence, says a new survey of 330 manufacturers by accounting, tax, and consulting services firm Wipfli.

Wipfli survey findings

Robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence are making business processes in most industries smarter and more efficient, the Wipfli survey says. The survey found most manufacturers are not using any of these tools in their operations. Data analytics is also standard for most successful businesses, or should be. Yet only six in 10 manufacturers said they are using it.

Manufacturers do have big plans in store for artificial intelligence. 70% of manufacturers plan to invest in AI for operations compared with:

  • Sales (60%)
  • Robotic process automation (48%)
  • Financial reporting (47%)
  • Front- and back-office systems (36%)

“Most companies are turning to Industry 4.0 and digital capabilities for enhanced production and supply chain agility and visibility,” Wipfli says. “By leveraging real-time market intelligence and predictive tools, manufacturers can better navigate current market volatility and pivot more quickly to their plan B.”

But challenges do remain for many manufacturing companies to overcome on their way to full digital transformation, according to the Wipfli survey. For many companies, insufficient technical expertise or workforce training is the top roadblock (61%). Next are:

  • High costs (54%)
  • Data and cyber security concerns (40%)
  • Existing systems integration (37%)
  • Resistance to change (37%)
  • Lack of awareness of smart factory benefits

With the talent shortage enduring into the near future, manufacturers will need to continue evaluating and implementing new technologies to better understand the financial impacts of shop floor operations and enable top-line growth to exceed headcount growth,” Wipfli says. “Because digital transformation and data security are also top of mind, we expect more manufacturers to invest in Industry 4.0 technologies, including cybersecurity tools for their data and their operations.”

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