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61% of manufacturers expect AI to drive growth by 2029, study finds

21st June 2024

By: Darren Parker

Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online


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Nasdaq-listed Zebra Technologies has found that 61% of manufacturers expect AI to drive growth in the sector by 2029, up from 41% in 2024.

These findings are part of Zebra’s ‘2024 Manufacturing Vision Study’, the results of which were released on June 21.

The study shows that this surge in AI adoption, combined with 92% of survey respondents prioritising digital transformation, underscores manufacturers’ intent to improve data management and leverage new technologies that enhance visibility and quality throughout the manufacturing process. 

While digital transformation appears to be a priority for manufacturers, achieving it remains fraught with obstacles, including the cost and availability of labour, scaling technology solutions and the convergence of IT and operational technology (OT).

Zebra found that visibility is the first step to transformation and that the adoption of AI and other new technologies enables manufacturers to leverage data more effectively to identify, react and prioritise problems and projects so they can deliver incremental efficiencies across the manufacturing process that can net the greatest impact upfront.

“Manufacturers struggle with using their data effectively so they recognise they must adopt AI and other digital technology solutions to create an agile, efficient manufacturing environment.

“Zebra helps manufacturers work with technology in new ways to automate and augment workflows to achieve a well-connected plant floor where people and technology collaborate at scale,” Zebra Technologies manufacturing industry principal Enrique Herrera said on June 21.


Although the study shows that manufacturers believe digital transformation to be a strategic priority, achieving a fully connected factory remains elusive.

Visibility is key to optimising efficiency, productivity and quality on the plant floor, yet a large visibility gap exists, Zebra says. Only 16% of manufacturing leaders globally report they have real-time, work-in-progress (WIP) monitoring across the entire manufacturing process.

While nearly six in ten manufacturing leaders expect to increase visibility across production and throughout the supply chain by 2029, one-third say getting IT and OT to agree on where to invest is a key barrier to digital transformation.

Adding to these obstacles, 86% of manufacturing leaders agree they are struggling to keep up with the pace of technological innovation and to securely integrate devices, sensors and technologies throughout their facilities and supply chain.

Zebra believes enterprises can use its solutions to ensure their data is able to achieve higher levels of security and manageability, as well as new analytics that can elevate the performance of their business. 


Zebra’s study found that manufacturers are shifting their growth strategies by integrating and augmenting workers with AI and other technologies to transform manufacturing and build a skilled workforce over the next five years.

About 73% of manufacturing leaders plan to reskill labour to enhance data and technology usage skills, and 70% expect to augment workers with mobility-enabling technology.

The technology tools being implemented by manufacturing leaders include tablets at 51%, mobile computers at 55% and workforce management software at 56%. In addition, 61% of manufacturing leaders say that they plan to leverage wearable mobile computers to augment their evolving workforce.

About 60% of leaders rank ongoing development, retraining/upskilling, and career path development to attract future talent as a high priority for their organisations.


The quest for quality has intensified as manufacturers across segments must do more with fewer resources. According to the survey, global manufacturing leaders say the current most significant quality management issues are real-time visibility (33%), keeping up with new standards and regulations (29%), integrating data (27%) and maintaining traceability (27%).

To address these concerns, over the next five years, 65% plan to implement robotics, 66% machine vision, 66% radio frequency identification and 57% fixed industrial scanners.

Most manufacturing leaders say they agree these automation solutions are driven by a variety of factors including the need to provide the workforce with high-value tasks (70%), achieve service level agreements (69%) and add more flexibility to the plant floor (64%).

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online


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