Industrial manufacturing trends 2019

External conditions pose questions. Could technology be the answer? Part of PwC’s 22nd CEO Survey trends series

Technology could become like oxygen to the industrial manufacturing sector

For industrial manufacturing (IM), a series of external challenges ultimately may be catalysts for action that the industry has avoided for many years. Global trade disputes, tariffs and trade barriers, political instability and even the potential onset of a recession are topping a long list of threats that could have palpable repercussions for companies that make complex engineered products and equipment mostly for manufacturing operations and earth-moving projects.

"87% of IM CEOs were ‘extremely concerned’ about the US and China trade negotiations."

PwC’s 22nd Annual Global CEO Survey, 2019

"81% of Industrial Manufacturing CEOs said that they plan to rely on operational efficiencies to bolster growth via enhanced competitiveness."

PwC’s 22nd Annual Global CEO Survey, 2019

Industrial manufacturers are not used to dealing with these types of global headwinds.

Many industrial manufacturing companies have not implemented digital tools across their business lines that would give them a low cost and lean operating environment flexible enough to respond quickly to geopolitical and global economic challenges.


Ideas for building elasticity into factories, supply chains and manufacturing footprints:

Digitise wherever and whenever

  • Streamline production with systems that guide workers to place parts while robotic arms move the body into position for placement
  • Using cobots (collaborative robots) to combine human thinking skills with the strength and precision of robots
  • Support workers with automation from procurement to shipment
  • Tackle process inefficiencies, creating transparency in bottlenecks
  • Implement automation and AI in HR, accounting and compliance

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Strengthen supply chain

Creating a digital twin of the supply chain is a valuable way to analyse and monitor performance: 

  • Real-time assessments can be made about cost-effectiveness, reliability, and the optimal global footprint
  • The supply chain can be continuously managed for the best return
  • Proactive steps to shorten the supply chain can be supported
  • With more efficiency and stability, financial decisions can be made without supply chain disruption concerns

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Don’t forget the customer

Digital tools and innovations can improve the customer experience through:

  • Blockchain-based traceability
  • Integrated and configurable price quote portals
  • Product-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings
  • Simulated factories and mock remote sites where purchases can be made or saved through touchscreen and e-commerce portals 
  • Unified websites and catalogs

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Strategy made real

It’s time to reevaluate where to buy and sell, take a hard look at what businesses will be viable under the new trade regime, leverage opportunities, and consider whether or not to pass increased costs along to customers.

Read the article on Strategy&



Contact us

Reinhard Geissbauer

Partner, PwC Germany

Tel: +49 89 5790 6138

Steve Eddy

Global Advisory Industrial Manufacturing and Automotive Leader, Partner, PwC United States

Barry Jaruzelski

Industrial Manufacturing, Principal, PwC United States

Tel: +1 973 410 7624

Marian H. Mueller

Industrial and Automotive Industries, Principal, PwC United States

Tel: +1 9732365732

Steve Pillsbury

Principal, PwC United States

Tel: +1 (773) 383 1263

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