The degree of automation and digitalization in production is an indicator of how competitive companies or production locations really are. The study by the management and IT consultancy MHP “Industry 4.0 Barometer 2023” shows that only 50 percent of production processes are automated. More than half of companies do not engage with the potentials and opportunities presented by Industry 4.0 or do not regard them as expedient.
For two-thirds of the companies surveyed, uncertainty about return on investment (ROI) is the decisive argument for their lack of commitment to digitalization. This is especially true for the shop floor. One of the biggest hurdles in achieving holistic shop floor networking is the unclear profitability of the industry 4.0 technologies in question. The greatest impact in this field is attributed to two technologies in particular: autonomous transport (43%) and artificial intelligence (39%).
The digitalization gap: China and the DACH region need to catch up with the US
The fact that Germany, Austria, and Switzerland perform poorly in production digitalization is well known. In this year’s Industry 4.0 Barometer, they remain well behind China, Great Britain, and the US—and the gap is growing. Dynamic companies, especially from the Asian region, are investing huge amounts of money and have already left many of their Western competitors behind.
The study uses the topic of shop-floor automation to document how large this gap currently is: for companies from the DACH region, the UK, and the USA, only about 44 percent of all production processes are automated. In China, the figure is 69 percent. The greatest obstacle to implementing Industry 4.0 technologies is the lack of qualified employees and requisite training programs. This is particularly evident in DACH regions, where more than half of companies have problems recruiting qualified personnel. Using existing staff is hardly an option because they are too involved in day-to-day business. More than half of the companies surveyed are dissatisfied with the training opportunities on offer.
Sustainability: US and UK are circular economy leaders
When it comes to sustainability, a major problem is the high level of expenditure required to improve it. This results in only superficial issues being dealt with. The circular economy is being driven forward above all in the US and the UK, while the DACH region and China still have some catching up to do. Almost half of the companies surveyed state that they continue to run certain projects or processes, even if they are not in line with corporate sustainability goals. Of the circular economy principles “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Redesign, and Refurbish”, the Reduce principle—i.e. the reduction of energy and material consumption as well as waste—takes priority for 67 percent.
About the “Industry 4.0 Barometer 2023” study
The “Industry 4.0 Barometer 2023” is published by the management and IT consultancy MHP in cooperation with Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) Munich. The survey, which was conducted for the fifth time in 2022, involved 899 participants from industrial companies in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, China, the UK, and the US.
The underlying questionnaire refers—as in every year for the purpose of comparability—to the four topic clusters technology (efficient use of Industry 4.0 solutions), IT integration (increasing the performance of the company’s internal IT infrastructure), strategy and goals (strategic focus of Industry 4.0 activities), drivers and barriers (positive and negative factors for the implementation of Industry 4.0 solutions).
In addition, the two focus topics “Shopfloor Automation” and “Sustainable Operations” were examined in greater detail. The topic “Shopfloor Automation” describes the design of repetitive and employee-intensive processes that become more efficient and flexible through automation. The topic “Sustainable Operations” deals with the pursuit of a sustainable use of resources, in which negative environmental impacts are reduced and at the same time a profitable and future-oriented operation is made possible.
The study can be found on MHP’s website.