Information and communication technology (ICT) is reshaping modern manufacturing around the world, but a new report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the world’s top-ranked think tank for science and technology policy, finds that U.S. manufacturers, and especially small manufacturers, have been slow to adopt digital manufacturing processes. Examining smart manufacturing adoption in the United States and Korea, the report offers policy recommendations to improve smart manufacturing adoption.
“For all smart manufacturing’s promise, most U.S. companies remain just at the initial stages of manufacturing technology adoption,” said ITIF Vice President Stephen Ezell, lead author of the report. “More needs to be done to facilitate the uptake of digital manufacturing practices and technologies.”
The report examines U.S. manufacturers' adoption rates of various smart manufacturing applications, such as the Industrial Internet of Things, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and data analytics, robotics, and finds that in some cases U.S. manufacturers trail international competitors in adoption of shop-floor smart manufacturing implementations.
The report offers a series of policy recommendations to further advance the digitalization of U.S. manufacturing, including:
- Create regional digital manufacturing hubs/scale pilot digital manufacturing centers/testbeds;
- Introduce mechanisms to encourage original equipment manufacturers to take more ownership of manufacturing supply chain digitalization;
- Increase funding for the U.S. Manufacturing Extension Partnership;
- Support small- to medium-sized enterprises’ digital manufacturing investments;
- Provide more generous tax credits for investments in new machinery and equipment;
- Expand funding for Manufacturing USA Institutes and make funding permanent;
- Improve federal tracking of data on U.S. manufacturers’ implementation of digital technologies.
“Large and small manufacturers alike face challenges in fully maximizing the promise of smart manufacturing,” Ezell said. “Other countries are doing significantly more to support the digitalization of their manufacturing sectors, and the United States should develop a more comprehensive strategy to support its domestic industry.”