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Tracking Team Progression with IT/OT in Relation to Leveraging Next-Gen Manufacturing Solutions

By Alex Passett
June 25, 2024

Digital transformation-centric initiatives – remote monitoring and predictive/data-driven analytics, AI integrations and much more – are clearly a priority for many, many manufacturers, these days. Despite this being clear, however, achieving it is proving to an obstacle-fraught run-through for manufacturing teams; obstacles like the cost and availability of labor (and any reskilling/upskilling needs therein), the acquisition of truly scalable solutions, and the convergence of information technologies (IT) and operational technologies (OT), to boot.

That’s why companies like Zebra Technologies – a connector of people, assets and data across warehouse and distribution, manufacturing plants, field ops, transportation and logistics, retail and so on – unveiled just last week the findings of its “2024 Manufacturing Vision Study.” (For any interested, jump to the full study here.)

For readers interested in a long-story-short breakdown of the study’s details, see below:

  • At the onset, Zebra found that the top challenges industry decision-makers are facing include digitalization of operations, their respective long-term investments for improving supply chain visibility and support production traceability, the need for more immersive tech to support workflows and active assembly lines, and accommodating sustainability in any/all applicable phases of the overall manufacturing process.
  • 86% of surveyees agreed that “the pace of superb technological innovation” may be accelerating at a rate that orgs are “struggling to keep up with” without supplemental resources.
  • AI-wise, 41% of those surveyed expect AI to continue serving as the “rising growth engine” for improving performance and maintenance, but also that further regulations “are a must.” After all – since we are talking about visibility here – being able to see on a detailed level how varied AI systems generate the results they do and how they got there is all but a linchpin for ensuring accountability as the AI phenomena hype stays its course.
  • In terms of desired outcomes for sustainable plant floor automation, 48% of decision-makers are shooting for reliably providing flexible scale to meet fluctuating demands, 47% want to focus on increasing worker efficiency with automated support, 42% desire deployments within existing facilities without major infrastructure changes, and 42% have their sights on improving overall competitiveness in this space.
  • Nearly six in 10 manufacturing leaders reported to Zebra how “getting IT and OT to agree on where/how to invest” is a key barrier in increasing transformative visibility across aspects of both production and supply chain. Additionally, nearly seven in ten expect to better equip workers with mobility-enabling technologies like tablets (51%), mobile computers (55%), and workforce management software (56%). Plus, 61% of manufacturing leaders reportedly plan to leverage wearable mobile computers (the best of two worlds there, in a sense) to augment their evolving workforce.

As mentioned, there are further Zebra-acquired stats to crack into, but overall it seems manufacturers teams spanning C-Suite, IT and OT are attempting to gain greater, more grounded understandings of how tech-empowering labor initiatives can increase worker safety and productivity. It’s a good benchmark, of course with its ups and downs – namely, tech streamlining previously less-streamlineable tasks, but also potentially presenting slews of other issues to track.

As the saying goes, time will tell.

Edited by Greg Tavarez
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