New technologies are profoundly changing industrial production, giving rise to “the factory of the future.” What will the factory of the future be like with respect to its structure, technologies, and processes? What enablers will manufacturers need in terms of strategy and leadership, employee skills, and IT infrastructure to make it a reality?
The Boston Consulting Group recently conducted a study that addressed these questions. The study focused on a global survey of more than 750 production managers from leading companies in three industrial sectors: automotive (which includes suppliers and original equipment manufacturers, or OEMs), engineered products, and process industries. The goals were to define a vision for the factory of the future in 2030, assess the benefits, and create a roadmap for implementation. Our research partner was the Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering at RWTH Aachen University.
We found that industrial companies have high ambitions to enhance their factories—85% of respondents believe they can benefit from implementing elements of the factory of the future. But they appear to be struggling to build momentum. Among survey respondents, 74% said that their company has implemented, or plans to implement (within the next five years), elements of the factory of the future, but only 25% said they achieved their related targets last year. When we looked at the participants’ responses by industrial sector, the results were consistent with the overall findings. Furthermore, we found that German companies are the most advanced: 47% of respondents said they have developed their first concepts for the factory of the future. However, even among German companies, nearly 1 in 5 said that they are not yet prepared to introduce the related technologies.
Many manufacturers have started to selectively implement elements of our vision for the factory of the future. Below, we provide many examples of these efforts, most of which are being piloted on a small scale in specific areas of the plant. In order to realize our vision, manufacturers must apply these advances comprehensively throughout their plants and across an integrated value chain.
We analyzed how conversion costs and manufacturing costs would be affected ten years after starting implementation. We found that total conversion costs will be reduced by up to 40%. (See Exhibit 1.) Total manufacturing costs will be reduced by up to 20%, depending on the material costs. Manufacturers will also capture the benefits of enhanced flexibility, quality, speed, and safety. Over a ten-year period, a company’s cumulative investments to capture these benefits will amount to 13% to 19% of one year’s revenue.
In this report, we focus on automotive suppliers and OEMs. In recent decades, such companies have been the leaders in implementing innovations in production to improve efficiency. Their initial efforts to implement the factory of the future help to illustrate the use cases and improvement opportunities and serve as a model for other industrial manufacturers.