Manufacturers to substitute pen & paper for wearable tech

By 2022, more than 40% of manufacturers will invest in wearable technologies to abolish pen and paper processes within their supply chain, according to new international research.

Wearable Tech - The shift from pen and paper to fully-connected factories could make the manufacturing industry in the UK unrecognisable in just five years’ time - image courtesy of Zebra Technologies.
The shift from pen and paper to fully-connected factories could make the manufacturing industry in the UK unrecognisable in just five years’ time – image courtesy of Zebra Technologies.

The study – conducted by Zebra Technologies – found that manufacturers across EMEA are set to increase in a variety of new technologies in an effort to bring goods to market faster (43%), to address burgeoning supply chain complexity (41%) and to improve connectivity throughout their facilities (40%).

By 2022, 64% of manufacturers expect to be fully connected compared to just 43% today.

It confirms that the industry is in the middle of a dramatic digital transformation, a shift that will profoundly alter plant floor operations and usher in a new era in manufacturing, Industry 4.0, which is being powered by the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

The survey also confirms that UK manufacturing in 2017 has seen four-year highs in  output and order growth, with more than a quarter (27%) of EMEA companies predicting 5% or greater year-on-year revenue growth over the next five years.

The results show manufacturers rank mobile and wearable tech as the highest investment areas, including mobile (55%), voice direction & recognition (49%), location tracking in real-time (47%) and wearables (41%).

Yet, despite the investment pledge, almost half  (49%) of manufacturers say the complexity of these technologies is a barrier to achieving a fully connected factory, in addition to budget constraints (43%) and integration with legacy systems (39%).

Key findings

  • Manufacturers will continue to adopt Industry 4.0 and the smart factory. Workers will use a combination of radio frequency identification (RFID), wearable tech,  automated systems and other emerging technologies to monitor the physical processes of the plant and enable companies to make decentralised decisions.
  • Half of manufacturers plan to adopt wearable tech by 2022. And 55% of current wearable tech users expect to expand their level of usage in the next five years.
  • Manual processes are expected to dramatically decline.  Today, 62% use pen and paper to track vital manufacturing steps; this is expected to drop to one-in-five by 2022.  The use of pen and paper to track work in progress (WIP) is highly inefficient and susceptible to error.
  • Executives across all regions cited achieving quality assurance as their top priority over the next five years. Forward-looking manufacturers are embracing a quality-minded philosophy to drive growth, throughput and profitability. By 2022, only 34% expect to rate this as a top concern – signalling that improvements made by both suppliers and manufacturers will ultimately improve the quality of finished goods.
  • Manufacturers stated investments in visibility will support growth across their operation. 63% cited tracking as a core focus with a blend of technology (i.e. barcode scanning, RFID and real-time location systems [RTLS]) expected to be deployed to achieve the desired visibility.
  • 51% of companies are planning to expand the use of voice technology in the next five years.  The most dramatic growth for voice technology will be in the largest companies (>$1b) with a reported use growing to 55% by 2022.