Manufacturers are hesitating to fully embrace technology on the factory floor, according to a study by accounting and consulting firm Sikich LLP.
“The impact of digital technologies will require industrial companies to make fundamental operational changes,” according to the study’s executive summary.
At the same time, Chicago-based Sikich said “many companies have yet to implement these new technologies.” Manufacturers also aren’t taking “steps required to enhance their cybersecurity.”
Advanced factory technology covers such tech as Industry 4.0, with “connected” machines that communicate with each other. Also included are robotics, 3D printing and digital twins, or digital replicas of systems and processes.
“Large companies have typically been the early adopters of new technologies,” the firm said. However, Sikich said such technologies are “becoming competitive necessities for companies of all sizes.”
The survey found “most mid-market companies have not yet implemented many new technologies.” Such tech “can be challenging for companies with smaller technology budgets and IT departments.”
Sikich gathered responses from 310 companies. The survey was conducted online in April. Participating companies were in a variety of industries, including industrial equipment, metal fabrication, transportation and aerospace and defense.
About half of the companies reported using digital tech “at least to some extent,” Sikich said. Only about one-third overall said they used it “extensively.” Examples included “predictive maintenance of assets” where machines are monitored for the best time to perform maintenance (34 percent); Industrial Internet of Things (34 percent); digital twins (25 percent) robotics (24 percent); and 3D printing (23 percent).
“Smaller companies should consider following the lead of larger companies, which are more aggressive in extensively implementing technologies,” according to the report.
Respondents also said cybersecurity was a real concern. Half said they suffered breaches from cyber attacks the previous 12 months, including 11 percent having a “major breach.”
The consulting company said 45 percent of larger companies had a single executive responsible for cybersecurity “as their sole or primary responsibility.” Among smaller companies, the figure was 14 percent. Sikich said mid-sized companies may want to consider outsourcing their cybersecurity program rather than get by with inadequate internal resources.
The survey also indicated a divide by company size concerning the economy. Only 27 percent of respondents overall said the U.S. economy will go into recession in the next 12 months. But among larger companies, the figure was 49 percent.
Also, 63 percent of respondents said their companies are taking steps to prepare for a possible recession. Such steps included increasing efficiency to cut costs (53 percent) and boosting their ability to increase or cut production quickly (51 percent).