The Era of Manufacturing Process Automation Is Here

  • 61% of manufacturers are making large-scale operational improvements to their shop floors, including manufacturing process automation systems in 2019 to continue the strong growth they achieved in 2018.
  • Improving shop floor productivity is 1.4 times more important to manufacturers than making marketing improvements to drive more sales leads.
  • Investing in improving product and service quality fuels growth, keeps customers for life, and leads all technology spending by manufacturers in 2019.
  • Manufacturers are turning to robotics as over half of them (58%) are unable to meet production demand due to a lack of skilled labor availability.

These and many other insights are from the recent Decision Analyst study completed in conjunction with IQMS/Dassault Systemes, Shop Floor Productivity Investments That Drive Manufacturing Growth (PDF, 7 pp., opt-in). Based on interviews with 150 manufacturers distributed across ten industries, the survey provides invaluable insights into their current and future manufacturing process automation roadmaps and plans. Manufacturers are planning to invest more in manufacturing process automation than in previous years as the results indicate. Key insights from the survey include the following:

  • 76% of manufacturers are prioritizing improving shop floor productivity as their most valuable growth strategy today, setting a quick pace for manufacturing process automation investment. Looking for new insights into how they can offer short-notice production runs, improve product quality and reduce costs, manufacturers say improving shop floor productivity is 1.4 times more important than making marketing improvements to drive more sales leads (44%) or growing partnership-based revenue (31%). The following graphic compares top manufacturing priorities, growth strategies, and growth barriers.

2019 Manufacturing Growth Stragegies

  • Investing in improving product and service quality fuels growth, keeps customers for life, and leads all technology spending in 2019. Manufacturers are most focused on how they can excel as suppliers in 2019 while also overcoming the growth barrier of inconsistent supplier quality and delivery consistency. These two factors are motivating them to increase their investments in Quality Management. Taken together, the top technologies manufacturers are adopting in 2019 defines their roadmap for this and future years’ operations. The study found that Quality Management adoption is growing in Aerospace & Defense (A&D) this year, with 73% of manufacturers surveyed saying this is a priority. 68% of plastics manufacturers are adopting Quality Management to streamline audits. 59% of fabricated metal manufacturers are adopting Quality Management this year to stay competitive.

Popular Manufacturing Technologies

  • Where Manufacturing Process Automation is flourishing today is in the area of upgrading existing machinery and replacing fully depreciated machines with smart, connected next-generation production equipment. 73% of manufacturers surveyed have fully depreciated their machinery; the majority are interested in either upgrading them or replacing equipment. The survey found that 41% of manufacturers are investing in upgrading existing machinery, and an additional 41% are investing in new machinery. 29% of all manufacturers are investing in robotics to alleviate the skilled labor shortages that leave them unable to meet production demand.

Manufacturing Investment Priorities

  • Lack of skilled labor is manufacturers’ greatest barrier to growth, with 29% of them ranking robotics as a high investment priority to overcome this challenge. Robotics is becoming the most popular solution to the labor shortages facing mid-tier manufacturers today with 29% of them report that robotics is one of their top investment priorities for 2019. The more isolated a production facility is geographically, the higher the probability robotic stackers will be adopted initially to help with unloading production machinery. Robotics adoption continues from stacking to orchestrating multiple production machines across the shop floor, becoming a contributor to lights-out production shifts. Overcoming the barriers of inconsistent supplier quality and delivery consistency is leading manufacturers to invest heavily in Quality Management. The following are the leading growth barriers manufacturers face in 2019:

Barriers to Manufacturing Growth


Manufacturing Process Automation is dominating manufacturers’ investment priorities for 2019. The Decision Analyst survey found that manufacturers growing 10% a year or faster are capable of quickly converting shop floor productivity into greater order accuracy, including perfect order performance, strengthening relationships with customers. Manufacturers are also integrating real-time monitoring, Quality Management, and MES to gain greater accuracy,  scale, and speed versus their competitors. The goal for many manufacturers in 2019 is to excel at selling short notice production runs, higher product quality levels, higher yields, and greater cost control and visibility. It’s common for the fastest growing manufacturers to receive 25 to 50 audit requests from customers a year. Having an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, MES, and Quality Management system (QMS) that can flex and support these is key to their growth.