The connected factory gets a lot of ink. Journalists describe a future where raw materials are tracked and production methods are measured so precisely that flaws can be prevented before they happen. Engineering improvements can be tracked back to something as random as the humidity in a plant on the day a certain item was made.
But according to Zebra’s 2017 Manufacturing Visibility report out this week, we still have a way to go before the connected factory arrives. 62 percent of the 1,100 executives surveyed said their companies use pen and paper to track vital manufacturing steps and half are using spreadsheets or a computer on wheels.
While many factories already have connected elements, the promise isn’t in connectivity so much as it is in integrating disparate data from various parts of the organization into one place. This will allow an asset tracking system to tie into shipping software and the ordering side of the house to reduce waste. Doing this is hard, which is why 46 percent of those surveyed said technology complexity was the top reason they don’t yet have a fully connected factory. It was followed by 45 percent who said that a lack of IT resources was constraining development of smarter manufacturing.
Yet things are moving forward: 51 percent of companies are planning to expand the use of voice technology in the next five years as a way to help workers deal with information overload.
As the chart above shows, manufacturers are confident that connected factories are coming, and not just as a money-saving venture. For example, most factories already have connected elements. The next big challenge is connecting all the data that comes in to deliver business insights.