ML Journal February 2022

ML Journal February 2022

POV: Factories of the Future

The pandemic accelerated the demand for M4.0, but those same challenges are also dragging it down.   

In the early days of COVID-19 and again several months later, the Manufacturing Leadership Council surveyed manufacturers to ask about their tech investment position as a result of the pandemic. In both cases, the responses were overwhelmingly clear that those investments would be rapidly accelerating as companies sought all means possible to mitigate disruptions in supply networks, labor, transport, and the rash of other challenges that had suddenly come to bear.

Now two years in, the latest MLC poll on Factories of the Future shows a far different answer. While about a third continue to say their technology investments have accelerated, slightly more say they have decelerated, and an even larger group say they haven’t changed at all. The question is – why?

It’s very likely that those same challenges that caused such demand for new technology are the very same ones that are now holding it back. New technology is great – if you can get a hold of it, and if you can get the necessary workforce to operate it.

A shortage of semiconductors. Rising costs for materials, fuel, and shipping. The Great Resignation. There is uneven supply and demand brought about by those issues, but also the sheer business necessity to allocate more capital and resources toward existing costs and needs. Just as your own grocery and gas bills have risen, so have the expenses for businesses too.

The pandemic appeared to be the great inflection point for M4.0 investment, and it’s clear that manufacturers still believe in its promise and importance. But many are also finding themselves, frustratingly, in the very same place where they started. – Penelope Brown

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