Smart factories are set to add “at least” $1.5tn to the global economy within five years, according to research published today by Capgemini Research Institute.

In a report published today entitled Smart Factories @ Scale, Capgemini projects that smart factories could add between $1.5tn and $2.2tn within half a decade due to gains in productivity, quality and customer services.

However, the report, which surveyed over 1,000 manufacturers across 13 countries, found that there are still barriers to making this a reality, with 60% of organisations struggling to scale their smart factory projects.

In particular, organisations are struggling to effectively join information technology and operational technology smoothly, reporting issues around data readiness, platform integration and cybersecurity.

Furthermore, there are also skills challenges, with a greater need for skilled workers with expertise in engineering, equipment maintenance and cybersecurity.

“A factory is a complex and living ecosystem where production systems efficiency is the next frontier rather than labour productivity,” said Jean-Pierre Petit, director of Digital Manufacturing at Capgemini.

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“Secure data, real- time interactions and virtual-physical loopbacks will make the difference. 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.”

Companies betting big on smart factories

The report also found that there has been a significant climb in the number of organisations investing in smart factory projects.

While in 2017 a similar survey by Capgemini found that just 43% of manufacturing organisations had such projects, this now stands at 68%.

One such company that is placing significant focus on smart factories is Schneider Electric, which has focused on developing digital tools to provide smart factory integration.

“We had started with just one flagship pilot several years ago and towards the end of 2019, we have over 70 Smart Factory sites certified with external recognition by the World Economic Forum,” said Mourad Tamoud, EVP, Global Supply Chain Operations at Schneider Electric.

“By training our managers, engineers, support staff, and operators, we have equipped them with the right knowledge and competences.  In parallel, we have also started to scale this experience across the organisation through a virtual network to achieve such a fast ramp up. “

Read more: Geek+ launches smart factory solution, allowing robots to build themselves