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What are companies focusing on now?

Every two years, Flanders Make asks companies about their vision, plans, and expectations. The result is an illuminating report on the state of affairs in Industry 4.0 - a scan of the beating heart of the sector.

1. Sustainability drives the industry

Sustainability is no longer an option – it’s an imperative. Companies understand that creating sustainable products, services, and production systems will be the new standard for surviving in the manufacturing industry. With an average importance rating of 70%, the participating companies are making clear that sustainability is high on their agenda.

2. Companies are more industry-4.0-ready than ever

45% of our companies are Industry-4.0-ready, giving themselves an average rating of 76%. This is very promising given that they are acting in a rapidly evolving context. Surprisingly,  company size has almost no impact on Industry-4.0-readiness.

3. The key drivers for digitalization are cost-based

The main drivers for digitalization are now cost-based (62%), especially among larger companies. Previously, there was a clear balance between cost-based and revenue-based drivers. The experience that businesses gain gives them important insights into the returns on their digitalization efforts.

4. Companies are re-focusing on innovation and digitalization

2020 was a difficult year, but now the majority of companies (66%) are starting to re-focus on innovation and nearly all companies (96%) place digital transformation high on their agenda. Both innovation and digital transformation are indispensable to remaining competitive in a challenging global market.

5. A growing number of collaborative ecosystems

To date, only 1 in 4 companies recognizes the benefits of collaboration in ecosystems, which is a key driver for sustainable growth. Increasing awareness and active involvement can have an important effect on the competitiveness of our industry.

6. Companies are backing AI and big data

And robotization has also made it into the Top 3 technologies that businesses have confidence in.

7. Increasingly vital role for digital twins in product design

34% of companies are using digital twins technology, and nearly half of them are using it for product design validation. More than 1 in 4 businesses deploy digital twins for maintenance support and scenario analyses.

8. Companies see advantages of a digital shop floor

45% of companies believe that having a digital shop floor offers the biggest digitalization opportunity. However, more than 60% says that finding the necessary digital talent remains the main challenge for the successful digitalization of their business processes. Investing in workforce development and humancentric manufacturing is the key to gaining a competitive edge.

9. Big data are a key asset, but many companies are struggling with it

8 out of 10 companies are collecting data, but almost 60% of them are struggling to use them effectively and benefit from the information. Only 28% of companies have an Operational Technology department – essential for leading a successful Industry 4.0 implementation, starting with the installation of solid IOT infrastructure.

10. Inventory management strategies shift to ensuring availability

Following the corona crisis, stock management priorities are shifting towards a focus on availability. In real terms, this means that 22% of companies are holding more stock to counter delays in the supply chain. Nearly half of companies are reviewing their supply chain strategy.

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