R&D Rises to Priority Level for Manufacturers.

Author:Hiskey, Terri

Look back through time, there are plenty of examples of businesses that missed out on huge opportunities. Think about when Kodak skipped the digital photography revolution, when Nokia failed to recognise the importance of smartphones, and when Ford got upstaged by General Motors (GM) back in the 1920s.

Now think about why this happened, and you'll quickly realise that there's a force at the heart of these crucial errors--research and development (R&D). After all, Kodak had invented digital photography but failed to invest enough in it, Nokia found itself behind the times, and GM simply found new ways to be more productive than the industry leader.

Businesses today are painfully aware of the need to stay at the forefront of innovation, with manufacturers dominating the world of R&D to adjust to new opportunities, to get one step ahead of their competitors, and to build efficiencies into how they work. In fact, according to a recent Deloitte paper exploring exponential technologies in manufacturing, the sector now accounts for 86 percent of all R&D.

The key is not just to implement R&D but also to use its outputs effectively to develop and grow. With that in mind let's take a closer look at the relationship between manufacturers and R&D.

Evolving consumer trends as a driving force for R&D investment.

Given that the phrase 'digital transformation' was only coined by Capgemini as recently as 2011, the speed of manufacturing's R&D uptake is notable. Manufacturers have been prompted to kick-start these 'digital transformation journeys' by a need to keep up with equally driven competition, and also to meet rapidly evolving customer expectations.

AI? Robotics? Cyber-physical systems? 3D printing? The rise from dingy and dour, to smart factories as a manufacturing differentiator, is testament to the growing reliance on R&D innovation and the expectations of consumers for such tools to be optimised. Gartner has gone so far as to predict that, by 2022, 40 percent of all new application development will involve Al co-developers, noting the intrinsic relationship that now exists between the manufacturing industry and R&D.

According to Epicor research[i], a third of (manufacturing) businesses now utilise AI, robotics, highly automated machines, or advanced waves of technology in their day-to-day operations. This is allowing them to meet demands, reach new audiences, and grow their businesses at a speed that suits them.

The ability to automate tasks--and...

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