Smart factories could add between $1.5 trillion to $2.2 trillion to the global economy per year by 2023, according to a new report released Tuesday.
Called "Smart Factories @ Scale", the report was produced by the Capgemini Research Institute. It surveyed one thousand executives from firms that have "smart factory initiatives."
Capgemini described smart factories as leveraging "digital platforms and technologies" in order to gain "significant improvements in productivity, quality, flexibility and service."
In a statement accompanying the report's publication, Capgemini said the financial boost would be realized through "productivity gains, improvements in quality and market share, along with customer services."
The study highlights several shifts in the sector that have occurred over the last few years. In 2019, for instance, it finds that 68% of organizations "had ongoing smart factory projects" compared to just 43% in 2017.
The importance of 5G – the fifth generation of mobile networks – is noted too: the report states it is "set to become a key enabler of smart factory initiatives" because its features give manufacturers the chance to "introduce or enhance real-time and highly reliable applications."
There is room for improvement, however. The report says that three main challenges are preventing progress: the "deployment and integration of digital platforms and technologies"; cybersecurity and data readiness; and the development of "hybrid and soft skills."
When it comes to smart factory adoption, China, Germany and Japan lead the way with South Korea, the U.S. and France following on behind.
"A factory is a complex and living ecosystem where production systems efficiency is the next frontier rather than labor productivity," Jean-Pierre Petit, Capgemini's director of digital manufacturing, said in a statement Tuesday.
"Secure data, real- time interactions and virtual-physical loopbacks will make the difference," Petit added. "To unlock the promise of the smart factory, organizations need to design and implement a strong governance program and develop a culture of data-driven operations."
As technology develops, the way that industry operates is indeed changing. Around the world, firms are turning to robotics and automated technologies to streamline operations.
These include Amazon Robotics, which was set up in 2003. A wholly-owned subsidiary of tech giant Amazon, it automates the business' fulfilment centers using a range of technology such as machine learning, depth sensing and autonomous mobile robots.