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The headline of this article comes from a survey conducted by MES solution provider Parsec Automation Corp. The company spent several months surveying 530 manufacturing professionals in the United States and Canada. Every security company I know does surveys. These are becoming quite a popular marketing tool.

I’m interested partly because I wonder how much talk about digital transformation is simply marketing hype and how much refers to real work. I’ve concluded that although manufacturers in general have digitized many sources of data they mostly fall short of gathering sufficient data from important sources and using that data intelligently in order to make better decisions.

This survey suggests as much.

Survey Highlights:

  • Manufacturers are pleased with digital transformation but may need to go further, as 31% of “fully transformed” companies still collect most of their data using manual processes.
  • Supply chain issues remain top of mind, with 53% of manufacturers saying their organizations are “hardly” or “somewhat” prepared to weather a storm.
  • Manufacturers anticipate using AI/ML, but just one-third (34%) feel their businesses are prepared to leverage this advanced technology.
  • MES (manufacturing execution system) technology is facing a knowledge gap, with 75% of manufacturers who report being familiar with—but not yet using MES—saying they don’t know how the technology would benefit their operations.

One telling thing is the lack of knowledge about the benefits of MES. MESA, the trade association, has been working alongside both solution providers and active users for many years to promote the benefits of the technology. Trainers told me 15 years ago that the greatest interest came from manufacturers in Asia followed by Europe. They had trouble filling classes in North America. This survey of manufacturers in North America seems to confirm what my current sources tell me—we are still falling behind over here.

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.”

In perhaps the understatement of the report, 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.

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.

All is not lost, though:

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%).

I’ve become increasing interested in the power of various AI technologies. Here the report agrees.

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.”

Parsec is the developer of TrakSYS, a proven operations management software application and solution platform designed to significantly improve manufacturing processes. Parsec is committed to providing best-in-class products and solutions to our worldwide community of clients to assist them in optimizing their manufacturing operations. There are thousands of TrakSYS licenses in use around the globe in a wide variety of Industries.

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