The Smart Industry Readiness Index, produced by the World Economic Forum on 10 February 2022, benchmarked the current status of global manufacturing. After compiling data for the Manufacturing Transformation Insights Report 2022 from nearly 600 manufacturers across 30 countries, the semiconductor, electronics and pharmaceuticals sectors ranked as the top sectors for digital transformation.

The report highlighted connectivity – a key objective across many sectors following the Covid-19 pandemic – and digital process integration as key focuses for manufacturing companies. Improved productivity and quality-linked performance indicators are also areas of priority across multinational corporations (MNCs) and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Furthermore, the report found that between 2019 and 2022, semiconductors have continued to hold the top-ranking position for being the most digitally mature sector. In the same time period, electronics overtook pharmaceuticals for the second spot, pushing pharmaceuticals to third. Energy and chemicals and logistics held the fourth and fifth spots, respectively.

The report cautioned that although semiconductors, electronics and pharmaceuticals ranked highly for digital maturity, they were not safeguarded from issues plaguing the smart industry.

Ongoing value-chain disruptions, the global chip shortage and industrial decarbonisation will continue to impact even these digitally adept sectors, and the manufacturing industry will have to continue to react to these challenges with agility.

The report also warned that responses to the ongoing challenges in manufacturing cannot be addressed with a one-size-fits-all approach. Access to a digitally fluent talent pool has also proven to be a long-term problem and the report highlighted that the requirements of workers in manufacturing will continue to evolve alongside digital transformation at a rapid pace.

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The report suggested that companies re-examine their approaches to remote working, re-skilling and workspaces following the pandemic, particularly as connectivity and visibility continue to be key objectives in 2022.

So far, SMEs have taken the brunt of the hit following the pandemic with the bottom five digitally mature sectors dominated by SMEs.

In 2022, a pressurised business environment, tight resources and limited digital expertise will continue to be barriers for SMEs looking to adopt advanced technology solutions. Meanwhile, MNCs are generally considered to be more digitally mature with stronger long-term strategies, and as industry 4.0 continues to evolve, the gap between MNCs and SMEs looks set to widen.