Based on a survey of more than 375 U.S. manufacturing executives, manufacturers with earnings growth of at least 20% in the past year are investing most heavily in the Internet of Things (70%), followed by robotics (50%) and 3-D printing (50%), artificial intelligence (43%) and supply chain automation systems (40%).

The study, “The Future of Growth and the Manufacturing Industryproduced by Grant Thornton LLP, Chicago, unveils the future of the industry and outlines priorities for manufacturers as they look to respond to technological and political disruptions.

Some highlights from the study are as follows:

  • 69% of manufacturers say that exposure to information security/cyber risk is likely or very likely over the next three years, with respondents from automotive manufacturing most likely to agree.
  • 44% of respondents cite supply chain complexity and inefficiencies as a major barrier to their growth ambitions. 
  • 62% of manufacturers make “building stronger customer relationships” a high priority for the future, with 57% reporting that they’ll rely on advanced data analytics to deepen their understanding of customers. Seventy-four percent say that manufacturers will need to co-create and collaborate with customers and others to drive innovation and these stronger customer connections.
  • 57% of manufacturers with strong EBITDA growth over the past year say they will shift from a product- to a service-related offering to drive growth, compared with just 31% of manufacturers with no profitability growth.
  • 73% of manufacturers with EBITDA growth of at least 20% in the last year point to the inability to source digital talent and skills as a barrier to their growth ambitions.