Survey of Indiana manufacturers shows more companies want to invest in technology, automation • Northwest Indiana Business Magazine

Survey of Indiana manufacturers shows more companies want to invest in technology, automation

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Tri-State Automation in Hammond refurbishes welding robots, keeping otherwise outdated equipment out of landfills and helping small manufacturers save money.

Finding more efficiencies through better technology and automation appears to be the top priority among Indiana’s manufacturers.

The 2018 Indiana Manufacturing Survey found most Indiana manufacturers consider investments in facilities, machinery and related information technology to be their top concern. Additionally, the percentage of firms identifying workforce development as their top concern declined to its lowest level in a decade, the survey found.

“If last year’s shift in favor of automation and facilities was a growing wave, then this year’s results seem more like a tsunami,” said survey co-author Steve Jones, professor of finance at the IU Kelley School of Business on the Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis campus.

The annual manufacturing survey – commissioned by the accounting firm of Katz, Sapper & Miller and authored by faculty from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business on the IUPUI campus in partnership with the Indiana Manufacturers Association – is designed to assess the state's manufacturing industry and provide insights into management choices made by manufacturing companies across Indiana.

Respondents to this year’s survey reflect views from rural to urban Indiana communities, and industries ranging from industrial equipment, automotive, aerospace/defense, packaging, high-tech, and healthcare.

“Manufacturers continue to see automation not only as a way to increase efficiency and productivity, but also as a way to address workforce shortages,” said Jason Patch, partner-in-charge of Katz, Sapper & Miller’s manufacturing and distribution services group. “Still, they recognize that, even as increased technology reduces their reliance on unskilled workers, they will need more skilled workers to operate the factories of the future.”

The report’s authors suggested to meet this growing need, manufacturers must train and “upskill” current workers and aggressively recruit high school students into the field. At the same time, they must make the case to all Hoosiers about how important manufacturing is to the state’s economy.

“This survey shows that manufacturing is strong in Indiana, but the state can’t take its position for granted,” said survey co-author Mark Frohlich, associate professor of operations management at the IU Kelley School of Business on the IUPUI campus. “Issues such as regulations and tariffs, healthcare reform and the workforce shortage must be addressed if Indiana manufacturers are to maintain their competitive strength.”                                                                


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