Robotic arm with a manufacturing plant in the background

The State Of Manufacturing Technology, 2016

October 2016


  • 55% of manufacturers are achieving stronger management of their global supply chains using cloud platforms and technologies.
  • 48% are managing new product introductions more efficiently using cloud-based platforms and technologies.
  • 64% of respondents are using consumer tablets on the plant floor reflecting how consumer technology is making plant floor connectivity easy and affordable.
  • 40% of manufacturers have already built “smart” products, or are planning to in the next five years.

These and many other insights are from the second annual survey from Plex Systems, 2016 State of Manufacturing Technology Report (17 pp,  PDF, free, opt-in). Plex Systems surveyed 197 manufacturers from different sectors ranging from the automotive to the food and beverage industries, on the technologies they rely on and the tools they plan to incorporate in the coming years. Of the companies surveyed, over 75% operate multiple manufacturing facilities. In contrast to the perception of the manufacturing industry consolidating, nearly 90% are achieving growth over the last five years.

Key takeaways from the study include the following:

  • The era of connected manufacturing has arrived. The survey found that organizations are building on the connectivity of the cloud and leveraging integration that extends from mobile devices to plant floor equipment, customers to suppliers, and people to materials. These capabilities provide a new application foundation for everything from agile process design to enterprise supply-chain management, innovation, and product quality.
  • Handheld scanners (94%), consumer mobile devices (79%), sensors (50%), and IP-enabled tools and machines (46%) are the four most common connected devices in manufacturing operations today. Additional devices include low-power Bluetooth devices (37%), quality scanners (32%) and smart thermostats and lighting controls (24%).


  • 73% (up from 66% in 2015) say cloud solutions are improving their level of insight into their business, and 90% (up from 81%) noted improved mobile access to data. Cloud platforms and technologies are enabling greater data access across manufacturing, supply chain, distribution, and customer-facing systems. More than 65% of respondents cite the cloud as a key factor in improving connectivity and communications with customers, with 64% noting similar improvement with suppliers. More than 40% claimed improved communication with transportation providers. By 2017, 40% of manufacturers expect to have deployed big data analytics or be deep in the planning stage.
  • Responding to fluctuating customer demands (64%), global supply chain management (55%), and improving new product introductions (48%) are the three business demands cloud solutions positively impact in manufacturers. Cloud solutions also enable manufacturers to better manage mergers and acquisitions (22%) and re-shoring manufacturing operations (11%). It’s noteworthy that greater than 10% of survey respondents are actively engaged in re-shoring. This runs counter to many of the discussions regarding manufacturing today. Taken together these findings indicate cloud solutions are successfully being used by manufacturers to put their customers at the center of their operations. By being able to respond more effectively to customer demands, manufacturers are able to improve new product introductions and streamline supply chains.


  • Increasing supply chain connectivity (67%), increasing plant or enterprise integration (65%) and enhancing quality programs (64%) are the three top initiatives manufacturers are undertaking in the next five years as a result of cloud technologies. Manufacturers often select cloud-based systems to automate quality management programs as this department often is isolated from broader manufacturing operations workflows. Cloud technologies are also making it possible for manufacturers to enhance plant floor automation technologies including sensors and machine integration (60%), contribute to increased product innovation (32%) and expand into new business segments and expand into new geographical markets (both 27%). 


  • Personal data integration, plant integration and system-to-system integration (e.g., MOM-ERP) are the three areas where cloud-based software has more improved integration. Manufacturers somewhat and strongly agree that cloud platforms and technologies create greater opportunities for streamlining manufacturing operations by integrating personal devices and improving plant operations. It’s interesting to see how much system-to-system integration is improving as a result of the cloud. 


  • Energy Management, Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ), and Manufacturing Simulation are among the most in-demand apps that manufacturers would most like to have in their manufacturing operations. Additional areas of interest include maintenance, repair and overhaul and field service management.


This article was written by Louis Columbus from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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