State of Manufacturers' Report Finds Automation Trend Will Continue

In Winshuttle's State of Manufacturers' Report, research found that the automation trend will continue in order to maintain consumer demand.

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The majority of manufacturers are under pressure to launch more products, faster than ever, and cite automating manual processes as the biggest area for improvement. That’s a key finding in recent research by Winshuttle in the company’s New Product Introduction (NPI) survey report.

This disparity between the need for speed in manufacturing, and the slow, manual processes to get products to market is evident in the company’s latest survey of large manufacturers.

Key findings from the survey of 190 respondents include:

  • 74% are under to pressure to speed up product launches reflecting a tough competitive landscape where smaller players have grabbed 17 billion dollars in sales from large companies since 2013, according to research firm IRI.
    • 82% cite changes are often or very frequently driven by consumer preferences
    • 67% say they are often or very frequently driven by competitive pressures
  • 68% of respondents expect launch volume to increase in the next few years as manufacturers continue to respond to rapidly changing market dynamics.
  • Manual launch processes hamper many large manufacturers with 60% using email and spreadsheets to collect launch data for some of their launch processes and 17% using paper forms.
  • Process complexity and lack of automation is contributing to slow launch cycles, with 70% of respondents reporting that it takes more than six months to launch a net new product today.

Sometimes referred to as commercialization, the NPI process is all about collecting and entering the data into SAP that the supply chain or operations team needs to make and distribute the product and meet launch dates. Managing critical tasks like sourcing new materials, or getting new artwork designed could also be part of the process. This report uncovers some details around the many different launch process types including; net new products, line extensions, packaging or label changes, plant or geographical extensions, and ingredient or component changes.

“You don’t have to be an industry expert to have noticed the rapid increase in new consumer products over the past few years,” explains Jeanette Mifsud, Winshuttle’s manager of product marketing, in the November edition of SAPInsider. “Shifting consumer demands and disruptive business models are driving manufacturers to introduce new products at an unprecedented pace and scale. In this dynamic landscape, speed to market and business agility are critical.”