New Survey Shows Manufacturers See Smarter Manufacturing As the Future, But Require Key Partnerships To Succeed

LIFT, the Detroit-based, Department of Defense-supported national manufacturing innovation institute, together with LIFT Platinum Members Siemens and Kearney as well as LIFT partner SME, today released the results of a survey of U.S. manufacturers gauging their preparedness and location on the journey toward a smarter manufacturing future.

The comprehensive survey of 500 top leaders from small- and medium-sized across several large U.S. manufacturing sectors, was conducted in September 2021 and was presented and discussed during a roundtable discussion with manufactures at the WESTEC 2021 conference, sponsored by SME, in Long Beach, California in November.

According to the survey, 90% of industry knows they must make the move to smarter manufacturing to de-risk their organizations and labor supply, the concept of making such a move is complex and they aren’t sure the return on investment (ROI) can be fully realized, so they are looking for partners to help guide them along the way.

The study provided some clear guidance and pathways that could accelerate smarter manufacturing within organizations, namely increased funding, and consultation with experts in the space.

“As a national manufacturing innovation institute, it is incumbent upon us to engage our ecosystem and partners, including world-class and global leaders such as Siemens and Kearney, to provide their specific expertise, to help the U.S. manufacturing base get out of the starting gate and start running more modernized, smarter manufacturing processes,” said Nigel Francis, CEO and Executive Director, LIFT. “The sooner we can help, the more secure our national economy and resiliency will be as the survey clearly indicated that moving toward a smarter future could have tremendous and far-reaching benefits for U.S. manufacturing, including and more and better jobs coming back to the United States.”

Among the findings in the survey were:

  • Nearly 90% of the industry knows they must make the move to smarter manufacturing.
  • 59 percent said their companies have already been using some level of smarter manufacturing in their production processes.
  • 58 percent of the respondents reported the biggest challenge was the complexity of executing successful system integrations.
  • 70 percent of all respondents identified the availability of workers overall as an issue.

“Some of our clients are looking for the next step change in manufacturing performance and see Smarter Manufacturing as a way to do that,” said Doug Mehl, partner, Kearney. “Not just productivity, but improved quality, shorter lead times, increased flexibility, and more resiliency.”

The Executive Summary and be found here and the full whitepaper can be found here.


LIFT, operated by the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute, is the Detroit-based, public-private partnership between the Department of Defense, industry, and academia, committed to driving American Manufacturing into the Future through Technology and Talent Development. LIFT funded in part by the Department of Defense with management through the Office of Naval Research. Visit or follow on LinkedIn at LIFT or on Twitter @NewsFromLIFT to learn more.