Sage North America, Atlanta, released “Riding the wave of uncertainty: How process manufacturers are planning for a brighter future in 2019,” a report that evaluates the state of process manufacturing, and uncovers how the industry is experiencing rapid change and bracing for the impact of new technological and regulatory challenges.

The research illustrates that across the board, process manufacturers are taking back control. Armed with a greater understanding of how the current state of affairs will impact profit lines, U.S. manufacturers are also poised to take advantage of new technologies by evolving to become more digitally-driven.

“Manufacturing is one of the few industries that touches every aspect of modern life, and process manufacturers in particular are seizing the opportunity not only to cater to their direct customers, but also to appeal to today’s end-consumer preferences,” says Nancy Harris, executive vice president and managing director. “The democratization of information and demand for greater transparency and traceability means consumers expect greater variety, speed but also more consciously made goods. Manufacturers are quickly adapting to these expectations that will continue to shape the future of the industry.”

Preparing for regulatory changes was the top issue impacting manufacturers in the United States across industries, with more than half of those surveyed reporting government is affecting how their business is run. Furthermore, nearly two-thirds say trade policies BREXIT and USMCA (formerly NAFTA) in particular are impacting their business decisions. Manufacturers are also concerned with the threat of cyberattacks and data breaches, with 84% revealing these external forces have a high impact on near and long-term business planning.

While manufacturers agreed on the impact the regulatory landscape is having, perspectives vary around the issue of onshoring. The study found that despite higher prices, chemical as well as food and beverage manufacturers overwhelmingly see business opportunities in the customer demand for locally produced goods.

Additional findings from the report include:

  • Traceability is also moving from “nice-to-have” to a “must-have” for managing quality, inefficiency and the threat of recalls, with food and beverage manufacturers universally agreeing it is a necessity to maintain brand value.
  • Emerging technologies have tremendous potential to help manufacturers save time and money, with reduced operational costs seen as the greatest benefit by U.S. manufacturers (34%), followed by increased traceability (29%) and automation of repetitive tasks (24%).
  • By pivoting approaches to meet new trials and demands head-on, manufacturers are feeling energized and ready for the future; 87% are somewhat or very confident that their industry will be a manufacturing leader by 2025. Though confidence levels are marginally higher for larger companies, the findings paint an encouraging picture for small business and enterprises alike.

This research report was developed with input from 906 manufacturing professionals from the UK, United States and Canada in response to questions on a wide range of subjects, including business plans and technology adoption.