Although leading manufacturers recognize the benefits of linking their workforce to connected industrial equipment, a new poll finds that they generally lack the confidence needed to successfully implement those systems.
Consulting firm Accenture in December polled more than 500 senior executives about the Connected Industrial Workforce, which establishes a real-time, two-way exchange between smart machines and human workers in manufacturing facilities.
Eighty-five percent of respondents expected those systems to be commonplace in their factories by 2020, and a majority expected them to significantly increase productivity.
Accenture projected that the Connected Industrial Workforce could also bolster operational efficiency and profitability — by up to €500 million for an automaker with €50 billion in annual revenue — while enhancing safety, improving risk management and mitigating rising labor costs.
Only 22 percent of survey respondents, however, indicated plans to take full advantage of the Connected Industrial Workforce, while most worried about technical aspects of the systems, including the availability of skilled workers and the vulnerability of both the system and company data.
In addition, 85 percent of participants described themselves as "laggards, rather than leaders" in digital manufacturing trends.
The Accenture report said that the “leaders” spend nearly twice as much on connected workforce systems and maintain clear implementation strategies. They also tend to invest in areas of need, from collaborative robots to IT security upgrades to worker training.
The analysis recommended that companies identify the potential of a Connected Industrial Workforce for their businesses, along with what's holding them back, and commit to more R&D and personnel investments.
"It's vital that manufacturers move quickly to build new business models robust enough to rise to these challenges," Accenture analysts wrote.