US manufacturers are lagging on digital transformation, says report
US manufacturers have been slow to adopt digital manufacturing processes, and embrace digital transformation. This is the conclusion of a new report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a think tank for science and technology policy.
“For all smart manufacturing’s promise, most U.S. companies remain just at the initial stages of manufacturing technology adoption,” said ITIF vice president Stephen Ezell, lead author of the report. “More needs to be done to facilitate the uptake of digital manufacturing practices and technologies.”
The report considers US manufacturers’ adoption rates of smart manufacturing applications, including the industrial internet of things (IIoT), cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, and robotics. It finds in some cases US manufacturers, and notably smaller manufacturers, trail their international competitors in adoption of these shop-floor implementations.
“Large and small manufacturers alike face challenges in fully maximising the promise of smart manufacturing,” Ezell said. “Other countries are doing significantly more to support the digitalisation of their manufacturing sectors, and the United States should develop a more comprehensive strategy to support its domestic industry.”
The report offers a number of policy recommendations to further advance the digitali transformation of the US manufacturing sector. These include the creation of regional digital manufacturing hubs and testbeds and the introduction of mechanisms to encourage manufacturers to take more ownership of the digitisation of their supply chains.
It also recommends increased funding for the US Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a public-private initiative by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) with centres in all US states. Additional funding should go to support digital transformation of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Tax credits should be available for investments in new machinery and equipment, it said. The National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), also known as Manufacturing USA, a network of research institutes in the US, should be better funded, and the federal government should track US manufacturers’ implementation of digital technologies.
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