The following insights are part of BCG’s Build for the Future series, based on three years of research conducted on digital transformations at major organizations around the globe.
Manufacturers face a tough set of challenges right now. They need to boost productivity in their factories, but also reduce their environmental footprint. They have to be more flexible and adaptable to successfully respond to rapidly changing market conditions. And they are struggling to recruit, upskill, and retain top talent. Tackling any one of these challenges is hard; addressing them all requires a new approach.
BCG has assembled a large and growing body of research about how manufacturers can dramatically improve performance across all these dimensions. We call it the factory of the future (FoF). Manufacturers worldwide have already started applying these ideas, and they are already seeing results. (See “Build for the Future.”)
Most manufacturing companies have launched digital initiatives in their facilities, but these are often isolated initiatives that are not sufficiently comprehensive. Consider that in a recent BCG survey of 1,800 executives, 89% regard advanced manufacturing technologies like AI as crucial, but only 68% have implemented at least one AI use case, with a mere 16% successfully achieving their targets.
Instead, manufacturers need a broader and more strategic approach to fundamentally change performance on the shop floor: the factory of the future.
Building the factory of the future is a significant task that involves focusing on three optimization dimensions—along with two foundational dimensions—to continuously improve the factory.
These foundational dimensions for FoF success directly align with the six key attributes that enable a future-built company: aligning leadership around a corporate purpose; creating a differentiated people advantage; building an agile and resilient operating model; fostering an innovation-driven culture; embedding AI in the organization; and migrating to modernized tech platforms.
All optimization and foundational dimensions need to be considered holistically and cannot be addressed on their own.
What sets top performers apart? In our analysis, advanced manufacturers lead their peers across all six key attributes by a significant margin, particularly in embedding AI into their operations, where they excel by 50%. They also allocate resources to projects that will pay off. Specifically, advanced companies allocate 2.5 times more of their operational spending toward FoF initiatives compared with their peers, resulting in digital operations and manufacturing capability scores that are 30% higher than those of their peers.
Learn more about what it takes to build the factory of the future in the slideshow below.