Manufacturers rank supply chain, cybersecurity, and digitization as top priorities: PwC survey


New York, 23 September 2021 – As risks of supply chain disruptions and cybersecurity breaches have multiplied, these areas have become the top priorities for manufacturers, according to PwC’s 2021 Manufacturing COO Pulse Survey. Digitization of operations and commerce is shown to be high on the manufacturing agenda, with a focus on digitization of products and services, smart factory technologies and digital sales and marketing.  The survey captures the views of 600 executives with responsibility for manufacturing operations across five of the leading manufacturing nations – China, Germany, Japan, UK and US.

Key findings include: 

  • 63% of COOs and other manufacturing executives surveyed rank supply chain agility as a high/very high priority over the coming one-two years; while a similar number, 61%, say cybersecurity is a high/very high priority.  This aligns with what executives say are their top challenges, with 45% and 44% identifying cybersecurity and supply chain risk management respectively as top challenges.
  • Nearly as critical to manufacturing executives are digital sales and marketing and smart factory technologies, ranked as very high/high priorities by 59% and 58% respectively.
  • Getting the workforce vaccinated and trade barriers and tariffs rank as major challenges for manufacturers, as identified by 37% of executives.
  • Across industries, cybersecurity is high on the agenda for aerospace and defense companies, prioritized by 72% of executives, while supply chain agility is consistently a high priority for industrial manufacturing & equipment (69%), consumer goods (68%), health industries (66%) and automotive (65%).  Digital sales and marketing is the leading priority for consumer goods manufacturers (72%) and health industries (70%).
  • In every territory surveyed, cybersecurity is a top-five priority for manufacturers over the next one to two years.  Supply chain agility tops the list of priorities for executives in Japan and the UK, while digital sales and marketing is prioritized in Germany and the US.  In China, smart factory technologies rank as the number one priority.

Anil Khurana, Global Industrial Manufacturing & Automotive Leader, Principal, PwC United States, said: “Manufacturers face a complex array of challenges, and it has become even more daunting with massive change brought about by the pandemic.  Most have rapidly adjusted to remote working, accelerated the use of digital technology, and shifted supply chain footprints. But disruptions are now the norm, and manufacturers know they have to keep their foot on the gas pedal in order to successfully evolve. Not surprisingly, supply chain agility, cyber, digital marketing and sales, smart factory technologies and upskilling the workforce have become key areas of focus as they continue to automate. Many manufacturers are beginning to see themselves as tech companies!”

While sustainability ranks lower down on the list of business priorities for the manufacturing executives surveyed, a substantial percentage (44%) say it will be a priority in the next one to two years, led by US-based firms at 49%.  Manufacturers are taking steps to measure ESG elements in their operations, with energy efficiency being the most measured element across all territories.  Technology is also a focus, with 81% of executives expecting their firm’s technology budget to increase in the coming year, with industrial internet of things (IIoT) and data analytics being the two areas of focus.

For more information visit the Manufacturing COO Pulse Survey site here.


About the research: The survey was conducted by telephone in April 2021 with 607 C-Suite and other executives with responsibility for manufacturing operations in their companies. Average revenues of companies surveyed was US$6.6 billion.  Participating territories include China, Germany, Japan, UK and US.  Industries covered include Aerospace and Defense; Automotive; Consumer Goods; Electronics and Technology; Energy, Utilities and Resources; Engineering and Construction; Health Industries Manufacturing; Industrial Manufacturing.

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