As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to remain profitable, manufacturing is accelerating digital transformation. Companies are investing an average of 36% of their global budget for all factory-related initiatives toward smart manufacturing. Wow, but it seems to be paying off.

Early adopters taking this approach are seeing twice the revenue growth, digital maturity, and new product and service delivery—and a whopping 85% of manufacturers recently surveyed believe ecosystems are important or extremely important to this competitiveness.

As part of a report, Deloitte and MAPI (Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation) surveyed more than 850 executives at manufacturing companies across 11 countries in North America, Europe, and Asia. Overall, the study found manufacturers agreed that it is important to work with outside partners, vendors, and other companies to fully realize smart manufacturing and digital goals.

Here is where the real value lies: Companies with more than 15 strategic alliances registered twice the revenue growth, compared with companies with fewer than 15 alliances. It also found that ecosystem-focused manufacturers experienced twice the pace of digital maturity and delivery of new products and services; and had operationalized 31% of their projects versus 15% of projects for those still focused internally.

The report highlights the four primary ecosystems in smart manufacturing including:

  1. Talent ecosystem, which creates pipelines for skills and roles that are needed to support smart manufacturing.
  2. Customer ecosystem, which connects and engages with customers and enables them to order, maintain, and service products.
  3. Production ecosystem, which makes the products that meet customer requirements and standards.
  4. The supply-chain ecosystem, which sources raw materials, calibrates supply to demand, and facilitates storage and distribution of finished product to customer.

The report also looks at the “Great 8” use cases that these ecosystems support including:

  1. Plant consumption and energy management
  2. Quality sensing and detecting
  3. Smart conveyance
  4. Factory asset intelligence for performance management
  5. Digital product development and digital twin
  6. Factory synchronization and dynamic scheduling
  7. Augmented workforce efficiency
  8. Additive manufacturing

When achieved, the results are tremendous: better efficiency, greater flexibility in adapting to the so-called new normal, and enhanced future competitiveness. Five typical characteristics of a fully developed ecosystem for smart manufacturing include: holistic decision-making, connected everything, accelerated time to value, turnkey solutions, and always-on agility.

As we all know too well, developing that ecosystem for smart manufacturing initiatives take a concerted effort on all parts. Manufacturers need to finetune coordination, data protection and cybersecurity practices, and capabilities across factory footprints. Companies need executive buy-in, a companywide approach and strategy, and need to choose intentional partners. The ongoing cultivation to these objectives and relationships is also critical. If done correctly, the payoff is huge.

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