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US insights on the future of the manufacturing industry

Today’s challenges are unlike any the world has experienced before, and we wanted a better understanding of how they’re affecting manufacturers’ strategies, practices and performance. So we asked. In PwC’s 2021 COO Pulse Survey, we reveal how global manufacturing executives from more than 600 large companies are refocusing their plans and priorities as they look beyond the pandemic.

What follows are highlights for US industrials. We encourage you to also explore our interactive tool to uncover what manufacturing leaders around the globe are doing today to rethink and reconfigure for a stronger tomorrow.

Cybersecurity and supply chain are front-of-mind challenges for manufacturing

While much of the pandemic’s jolting effects on the industry (particularly lockdowns) may be behind us, manufacturers are still bracing for persistent challenges over the next two years—especially when it comes to managing cybersecurity and supply chain risks.


Q: What are the biggest challenges that your company faces over the next 1-2 years?


Cybersecurity risks
%
Supply chain risk management
%
Getting the workforce vaccinated
%
Difficulty upskilling workforce
%
Trade barriers and tariffs
%

Source: PwC’s Manufacturing COO Pulse Survey

To succeed, US industrials are prioritizing agility, cyber and digital

It is clear that manufacturers are emerging from 2020 with plans to make their organizations more agile and secure. Top-priority areas of focus over the next two years include bolstering cybersecurity, expanding digital sales and marketing and making their supply chains more reliable and diverse.


Q: What level of priority is your company giving to the following business areas over the next 1-2 years?


Cybersecurity risks
%
Digital sales and marketing
%
Supply chain agility (reliability and diversification)
%
Customization (make-to-order)
%
Smart factories technologies
%
Managing tax impact of changing production locations and suppliers
%
Product innovation
%
Digitizing products and services
%

Source: PwC’s Manufacturing COO Pulse Survey

US manufacturing firms are prioritizing efficiency and data collection and analytics

The pandemic forced most manufacturers to cope with logistics snarls and chokepoints. Looking ahead to the next two years, most are placing top priorities on distribution efficiency and data collection and analytics, to improve the transparency and resilience of their distribution and logistics networks.


Q: Which areas of distribution and logistics is your firm prioritizing over the next 1-2 years?


Distribution efficiency
%
Data collection and analytics
%
Distribution channels
%
Distribution centers
%
Robotics and factory automation
%
Factoring in the impact of taxes and tariffs
%

Source: PwC’s Manufacturing COO Pulse Survey

US-based manufacturers are placing more importance on automation and tech-based activities such as digital upskilling and data and analytics

Workforce shortages played a central role in the massive disruptions at the height of the pandemic, and that experience will likely accelerate manufacturers’ efforts to increase automation and digitalization. Over the next two years, the majority of US manufacturers (53%) plan to increase workflow automation and nearly half (43%) plan to increase digital upskilling.

Q: Which of the following factory floor activities is your company planning to decrease or increase over the next 1-2 years?

Increase
Stay the same
Decrease
Workflow automation
%
%
%
Digital upskilling/Workforce transformation
%
%
%
Data and analytics for ongoing shop floor activities
%
%
%

Robotics and factory automation
%
%
%
Predictive maintenance
%
%
%
Tighter design manufacturing interfaces
%
%
%

Source: PwC’s Manufacturing COO Pulse Survey

Boards in the United States list cybersecurity as their top priority, with it outranking both cost and quality

Increasing cybersecurity is the top priority for boards of US manufacturers as cyber attacks become the norm. Indeed, a recent survey by Dark Reading found that more than one-third of manufacturers are attacked every month. Other priorities for boards include containing costs, product quality and smart-factory initiatives.


Q: Which areas is your board of directors prioritizing with respect to your company's operations?


Cybersecurity
%
Cost
%
Quality
%
Smart factory
%
Sustainability
%
Supply chain
%
Digital workforce
%
New products
%

Source: PwC’s Manufacturing COO Pulse Survey

Energy efficiency is the most measured ESG element in the United States

Most manufacturers are ramping up their ESG tracing initiatives on numerous fronts: more than 75% are measuring their energy efficiency, followed by health and safety of products (72%) and greenhouse gas emissions (68%). However, despite this activity, one-third of manufacturers are not measuring their environmental compatibility, signaling that the industry still has much room for improvement in ESG tracking.


Energy efficiency is the most measured ESG element in the US

Q: To what degree are you measuring the following ESG elements in your operations?


Energy efficiency
%
Health and safety aspects of products
%
Greenhouse gas emissions
%
Environmental compatibility
%
End of cycle impact
%

Source: PwC’s Manufacturing COO Pulse

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Bobby Bono

Bobby Bono

Industrial Manufacturing Leader, PwC US

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