How vital is technology for the manufacturing sector?
Technology is vital to every industry. The pandemic proved that digital transformation is no longer just a competitive edge but critical for business resilience and competitive longevity. Technology is the fuel of that transformation, and Microsoft works to create tools and platforms that allow businesses to innovate freely and cost-effectively.
What will be the impact of these technologies on the manufacturing sector?
A recent global study from the Economist Intelligence Unit, commissioned by Microsoft, showed 27 per cent of manufacturers to be concerned about the speed of technological change as a barrier to digital transformation, compared to a cross-industry average of 19 per cent. Perhaps because of this above-average concern, most manufacturers (56 per cent) concentrated their Covid-era digital transformation efforts on improving operational efficiency. But, again, this is higher than the cross-industry average of 40 per cent.
Another impact indicated by the Economist study is the manufacturing industry’s higher-than-average (48 per cent compared with a 36 per cent survey average) focus during the pandemic on technologies that boost employee engagement. We have also seen an increase in the adoption of smart manufacturing technologies to deliver autonomous supply chains, lights-out factories, digital twins, control towers, and many other use cases.
What are some of the latest tech trends to watch for in the manufacturing space?
We can already see the future taking shape with the manufacturing sector’s technology investments accelerating, so we can expect to see more of that. We should also expect more of a trend that emerged during the pandemic across industries but – as already mentioned – particularly in manufacturing. This is the heightened focus on employees. Companies will look to support frontline factory workers to a greater degree, connecting them with engineers in real-time and, more importantly, with data that allows enterprises to improve their workday experiences. We should also expect more leveraging of technologies, such as mixed reality and collaboration tools, to keep operations running smoothly and employees engaged. Additionally, companies will have to address skills gaps decisively and sustainably.
How does Microsoft aim to redefine the manufacturing industry in the coming year?
Our approach is multifaceted. First, we shall continue to improve our industry clouds to ensure no barrier exists between an innovative enterprise and the realisation of its vision. Second, we shall continue to ensure our cloud is a secure and trusted place to operate and for employees to collaborate seamlessly.
Connecting people, assets, workflow, and business processes will continue to be front of mind for us. To that end, we designed the Microsoft manufacturing core for the MEA region to unite artificial intelligence, cloud technologies, and the internet of things (IoT) to transform manufacturing businesses.
We shall continue to lead in the ESG space, making the Microsoft cloud for sustainability available to responsible regional businesses. And we shall also lead the charge on skilling, upskilling and reskilling in a lifelong-learning cycle that will be key to economic prosperity.
What did Microsoft showcase at the recently held Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit (GMIS), and why?
Our message at GMIS 2021 was that 2022 would be a tipping point for the manufacturing and heavy industry segments, as these core endeavours are towards nation-building, in turn, to economic recovery. Our UAE-based cloud data centres, along with our rich ecosystem of partners, have enabled manufacturers to reinvent their businesses, drive robust growth, and give back to their communities, thereby exhibiting greater social responsibility. Our digital technologies seamlessly connect people, assets, workflow, and business processes, empowering organisations to be more resilient. Some 70 per cent of the World Economic Forum’s global lighthouse network factories run on Microsoft Azure.