DETROIT – The manufacturing industry in America is moving rapidly to embrace technology as a critical part of its processes and plans to make new technological investments in 2017, but barriers to Industry 4.0 adoption still exist, according to Automation Alley’s 2017 Technology Industry Report, released Monday.

Industry 4.0, also known as the fourth industrial revolution, refers to the convergence of digital and physical technologies currently disrupting the manufacturing industry, including:  the Industrial Internet of Things, autonomous robotics, advanced materials, additive manufacturing, big data, cybersecurity, cloud computing, and modeling, simulation and visualization.

Automation Alley unveiled the report’s findings to an audience of more than 500 people from the tech and manufacturing industries at its 2017 Technology Industry Outlook at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Held annually, the event includes technology demonstrations and a panel discussion on critical topics facing the manufacturing and technology industries, both locally and nationally.

For this year’s report, Automation Alley conducted a survey of technology and manufacturing executives from across the country — including Automation Alley members — to determine their knowledge of Industry 4.0 and whether both industries are ready for the rapid changes ahead as technology transforms manufacturing.

According to the report, 85 percent of national manufacturing executives said their company plans to increase existing budgets for technological advancements, while nearly a third of them plan to increase their budgets by 10 percent to 15 percent. In addition, more than half of all national manufacturing executives reported that their company has a dedicated budget for Industry 4.0 technologies. The top three technologies in which companies currently invest are the cloud, cybersecurity and big data and analytics. Locally, the Industrial Internet of Things and simulation (both at 42 percent), followed by autonomous robots, horizontal and vertical system integration, and the cloud (all at 33 percent) are a top priority for Automation Alley manufacturers.

In addition, the vast majority (88 percent) of national manufacturing executives believe technological advancements can be beneficial to their competitiveness. The top technologies manufacturing executives believe will improve their competitiveness in 2017 are the cloud, big data and analytics, additive manufacturing and cybersecurity.

While most manufacturers recognize the benefits of technological advancements, barriers to technology adoption remain. Only slightly more than half (52 percent) of the national manufacturers surveyed have a dedicated budget and process to support the adoption of new technologies. In contrast, 68 percent of Automation Alley manufacturers reported having a dedicated budget and process to support the adoption of new technologies.

“Encouragingly, our survey results show that the Automation Alley manufacturing base seems to be more prepared for the Industry 4.0 transformation than their national counterparts,” said Tom Kelly, Automation Alley’s executive director. “However, we found that barriers to adoption remain at both a local and national level. In addition, there are striking communication gaps that exist between the technology and manufacturing executives surveyed.”

The results show the technology industry needs to better understand pain points among manufacturers. The top barriers for technological advancements as reported by national manufacturing executives are cost, uncertainty about which technology supplier has the best solution, and employees who are reluctant to change.

Each year, Automation Alley publishes the Technology Industry Report to provide the technology business community with valuable insights into the future of the tech industry, both locally and nationally. Since the organization began publishing the report more than a decade ago, businesses and municipalities have used it for business planning and business and talent attraction.

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