Zebra Study Goes Deep On IIoT Trends In Manufacturing

Zebra Technologies recently revealed the results of its 2017 Manufacturing Vision Study, a body of research analyzing the emerging trends shaping the future of industrial manufacturing. The global study revealed manufacturers are adopting the IIoT to enhance visibility and improve quality.

Driven by globalization, intensifying competition and rising customer demand for more options and higher quality products, a connected plant floor has become a necessity. Zebra’s survey shows the number of organizations achieving a fully connected factory is expected to rise dramatically over the next five years. Following are some notes and excerpts taken from the study:

Macro Highlights
The report rightfully states that at the heart of IIoT is the way companies capture and share data. The ability to have data about inventory needs immediately available in the cloud and available to both plant floor managers and suppliers offers unheard-of visibility that heightens operational performance. Currently, 27 percent of those surveyed are collecting data from production, supply chain and workers, however the data is remaining in silos rendering much of the intelligence it can provide untapped. In the future, that number is expected to drop to 19 percent by 2022, thereby signaling the importance of providing access to this type of critical data to improve productivity and streamline operations.

Manufacturers will continue to adopt Industry 4.0 and the smart factory. Technologies that connect assets, inventory and equipment are essential pieces of the IIoT puzzle. Manufacturers are beginning to see the many benefits of having fully connected operations that include the supply chain. The factory of the future needs end-to-end supply chain visibility on the plant floor to improve productivity and increase quality, which is precisely what IIoT delivers.

Workers will use a combination of radio frequency identification (RFID), wearables, automated systems, and other emerging technologies to monitor the physical processes of the plant and enable companies to make decentralized decisions. By 2022, 64 percent of manufacturers expect to be fully connected compared to just 43 percent today.

One-half of manufacturers plan to adopt wearable technologies by 2022. And 55 percent of current wearable users expect to expand their level of usage in the next five years.

The use of pen and paper to track work in progress (WIP) is highly inefficient and susceptible to error. As a result, manual processes are expected to dramatically decline. Today, 62 percent use pen and paper to track vital manufacturing steps. This is expected to drop to one in five by 2022.

Executives across all regions cited achieving quality assurance as their top priority over the next five years. Forward-looking manufacturers are embracing a quality-minded philosophy to drive growth, throughput, and profitability. By 2022, only 34 percent expect to rate this as a top concern — signaling that improvements made by both suppliers and manufacturers will ultimately improve the quality of finished goods.

Manufacturers stated investments in visibility will support growth across their operation. Sixty-three percent cited tracking as a core focus with a blend of technology (i.e. bar code scanning, RFID, and real-time location systems [RTLS]) expected to be deployed to achieve the desired visibility.

Fifty-one percent of companies are planning to expand the use of voice technology in the next five years. The most dramatic growth for voice technology will be in the largest companies (>$1 Billion) with a reported use growing to 55 percent by 2022.

“Manufacturers are entering a new era in which producing high-quality products is paramount to retaining and acquiring customers as well as capturing significant cost savings that impact the bottom line,” says Jeff Schmitz, Senior VP and CMO, Zebra. “The results of Zebra’s 2017 Manufacturing Vision Study prove that IIoT has crossed the chasm, and savvy manufacturers are investing aggressively in technologies that will create a smarter, more connected plant floor to achieve greater operational visibility and enhance quality.”

Regional Highlights
On-demand, cloud, and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions for Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) are expected to grow rapidly with 58 percent of North American respondents expecting to use these services in 2022.

By 2022, 54 percent of surveyed European manufacturers plan to use RTLS to collect critical data about assets including location, stage, and condition.

More than one-half (51 percent) of surveyed Latin American manufacturers and 48 percent of Asia-Pacific manufacturers plan to use RFID to optimize production WIP by 2022.

Almost six-in-ten (58 percent) Latin American manufacturing executives cite improving quality assurance as their top priority over the next five years.

Companies are focusing less on keeping materials on-hand and depending more on suppliers to provide goods on-demand. In five years, Just in Time (JIT) shipments will have the highest use in Latin America (42 percent) and Asia Pacific (40 percent).

Cost Isn’t A Factor
Companies are aware that IIoT is something they need to adopt. Interestingly, getting executive buy-in or estimating ROI for making such investments do not rate as respondents’ top concerns. Of those surveyed, only 29 percent state that determining ROI is a barrier. The benefits that come from having a fully connected factory that communicates in real time with the supply chain far outweigh the costs and contribute greatly to maintaining a competitive edge. Once a plant floor adopts IIoT, the benefits are immediately evident both in terms of savings, increased productivity and quality improvements. The biggest barriers to adoption is “complexity of technology,” identified by 46 percent of respondents, followed by “IT resources” (45 percent), “security concerns” (44 percent), and “budget” (41 percent).

Other Details
1,100 North American, Latin American, European and Asia Pacific decision makers who authorize or influence the purchase of relevant manufacturing technologies were interviewed by Peerless Insights.

The online survey was fielded in the first quarter of 2017 across a wide range of segments, including automotive, high tech, food and beverage, tobacco and pharmaceuticals.


SOURCEZebra Technologies
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Mike Monocello
The former owner of a software development company and having more than a decade of experience writing for B2B IT solution providers, Mike is co-founder of DevPro Journal.