Big Factory Meets Little Tech


The new relationships highlight manufacturers’ increasing awareness of both the importance of undergoing a digital transformation and the risk of being left behind. In a separate Oliver Wyman survey of more than 400 manufacturing and supply-chain executives, the most-cited obstacles to a digital transformation were cultural barriers, including lack of awareness in organizations of the potential of digital methods, and mistrust of digital tools, such as autonomous decision-making.

Another problem was the difficulty of forecasting return on investment: there are few existing cases to base calculations on, and results are expected only in the medium term or later.

The partnerships aiming to overcome these challenges include a leading aircraft manufacturer working with startups to develop collaborative robots that can assist technicians. Another startup will integrate software into the product life cycle management system of a large engineering company. An electronic startup has developed smart glasses for a multinational engineering company, so that its workers can receive alerts in real time and then control the various devices and machines being built along its supply chain. In total, two-thirds of the respondents to the survey said they have developed partnerships with third parties.

The contributions of the startups occur in the factory, tech devices, and information systems, and can be broadly divided into five groups. In the factory, production and warehousing processes will be optimized; and automation will play a greater role—featuring both collaborative and other robots. New information technology applications will augment reality through computer-aided design, simulation, 3-D printing, and virtual reality; and a growing array of smart devices, tags, and wearables will be connected to networks—as will ubiquitous sensors and microchips. This will all be centered on big data and cloud-based platforms, which will provide data analytics and cybersecurity.


The views expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Asian Development Bank, its management, its Board of Directors, or its members.

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