Pandemic accelerates push toward transformation

The manufacturing industry is adopting digital transformation plans that were accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, a major study from Vodafone Business has found.


The study found that this has led to 31 per cent of manufacturers globally being considered ‘Fit for the Future’ (FFTF) and better prepared to deal with future challenges, such as increased competition, changing employee expectations, and rising customer demand.

In total, 94 per cent of FFTF businesses across all sectors believed they were well-prepared for the risks facing them, compared to 58 per cent of respondents overall. On top of this, 82 per cent of FFTF businesses believe their business continuity plan worked well during the pandemic.

Additional analysis of the research conducted by the London School of Economics found a link between companies being FFTF and business performance. Organisations that scored a 10-point increase in their FFTF score were more likely to outperform their competitors by 36 per cent.

Push from pandemic

Just over two-thirds (67 per cent) of manufacturers now have a roadmap for digital transformation in place, whilst 49 per cent are already implementing their digital transformation strategy. The pandemic was a large driver of digital transformation within the industry, with 63 per cent highlighting that they accelerated plans and 48 per cent increasing their digital transformation budget in response.

This acceleration has put many manufacturers in a good position for dealing with future challenges, with 93 per cent stating that their organisation is ready for the future. Manufacturers also understand the importance of technology to their future success, with 95 per cent stating that it is highly important.

Technology adoption

The study found manufacturers acting quickly to adopt new technologies, with 55 per cent stating that they like to be the first to try out new technology, with just 19 per cent waiting for a technology to become mainstream before investing. Manufacturers also believe that they are ahead of their competition when it comes to digitalising processes, products, and services (68 per cent), whilst 71 per cent believe they are better than their competition at being focused on innovation.

In terms of using specific technologies, the manufacturing sector is further ahead of most other sectors surveyed. Technologies adopted by manufacturers include Internet of Things (59 per cent), artificial intelligence (47 per cent), robotics (53 per cent), mobile private networks (28 per cent), and mobile-access edge computing (24 per cent).

Affirmative automation

The research finds that manufacturers are embracing automation, with 44 per cent automating mundane tasks and 39 per cent automating tasks they consider dangerous compared to 16 per cent who are not automating any tasks at all.

These manufacturers are also taking several steps to prepare and ensure that future automation has a positive impact on their business. 43 per cent are already training employees to build skill sets that cannot be replaced by automation to ensure employees’ jobs are future-proofed.

In a statement, Marc Sauter, head of IoT product management at Vodafone Business said“This research shows that the manufacturing industry understands the benefits of digital transformation and technology.

“The pandemic clearly caused many manufacturers to accelerate their digital transformation plans and invest in modern technologies that will put them in a good place for the future. Technologies such as IoT, 5G and mobile private networks will be absolutely vital in securely connecting assets in a factory, enabling innovative and new use cases like Automated Guided Vehicles, AR/VR on the shop floor, [and] connected robots.”

The study sought opinions from 2,526 decision-makers from companies of all sizes in 11 markets. The full Fit for the Future Report can be found here.