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Manufacturers reveal concerns over tech readiness for hybrid work

Research reveals manufacturing firms must address both human and tech barriers relating to visibility of networks and the digital experience to create a sustainable and high-performing hybrid workplace

Even though as many as 88% of manufacturing business decision makers plan to invest in technology to support a hybrid workforce during the next 12-18 months, only 34% of them, and 33% of IT decision makers in such firms, currently believe they are completely prepared with the technology in place to support a hybrid work environment, according to research from Riverbed | Aternity.

The Riverbed | Aternity Hybrid work global survey explored the state of hybrid working and identified the focal investment areas and technologies required to build long-term, high-performing workplaces. It was conducted by Sapio Research in September 2021, among nearly 1,500 business leaders comprising 750 business decision makers (BDMs) and 738 IT decision makers (ITDMs) from organisations with revenue above $500m annually in the US, UK, France, Germany, Australia, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates and the Netherlands. Industry sectors included oil and gas, finance and insurance, public sector and government, healthcare and pharmaceutical, manufacturing, retail, and professional services.

Among the key findings was that offering a seamless hybrid-working environment is not a nice-to-have anymore, but rather a business priority, as the manufacturing sector looks to recover from the pandemic.

The vast majority of manufacturing BDMs (96%) regard a hybrid working structure as being able to help them to recruit talent and remain competitive, and just over half (51%) of the business decision makers in the manufacturing industry believe that half (50%) of their workforce will remain hybrid post-pandemic.

Yet, only a third (33%) of manufacturing IT decision makers said their current IT estate is completely prepared to support the demands of long-term hybrid work. This has left 85% of manufacturing BDMs worried about a disparity in network and application performance for hybrid or remote employees versus in-office employees. To address this, 92% of ITDMs and 88% of BDMs in the manufacturing industry plan to invest in technology to support a hybrid workforce during the next 12-18 months.

Creating sustainable and high-performing hybrid workplaces was seen as critical for business success, and reliant on organisations addressing both human- and technology-related barriers.

According to manufacturing ITDMs, the top five barriers to adopting a sustainable hybrid work model were expanded security risks (35%), lacking the right technology and equipment in the office (30%), technology disruptions (28%), lacking the right technology in home setups (25%), and poor home/remote network performance (24%).

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Manufacturing BDMs agreed that collaboration and virtual relationship building (31%) was also one of their biggest barriers to adopting hybrid working across their organisation. However, 35% cited poor remote network performance as the main reason.

Furthermore, BDMs believe that if they don’t act now, manufacturers will begin to fall behind other sectors. Issues such as Wi-Fi not working properly (46%), the inability for employees to connect to corporate networks (41%), and increased network traffic/bandwidth consumption and unreliable application performance (31%), will all have a huge impact on the ability to provide hybrid working over the next 12-18 months.

The study said it was encouraging that 92% of manufacturing ITDMs and 88% of BDMs were committed to investing in new technologies to support a hybrid workforce during the next 12-18 months. Their top areas of technology investments will be updating company-wide hybrid workplace strategies and policies (44%), investing in application or network acceleration services (38%), investing in user experience and digital experience monitoring services (35%), investing in cyber security technology and software (34%), and better visibility of network and application performance (33%).

“During the last two years, the pandemic has had a significant impact on the manufacturing sector across the globe, as businesses have had to shift much of their operations to a remote and hybrid working model,” said Alec Wilson, regional director for UK and Ireland at Riverbed | Aternity. “At the same time, these changes in the industry have presented an opportunity for manufacturers to take a significant leap forward in their digital transformation journey.

“Manufacturers have not only adopted new technologies that will give them a competitive advantage, but increasingly are leveraging visibility and observability solutions to deliver actionable insights that drive business performance and an exceptional digital experience,” he said.

“As a result, manufacturers across the UK and Ireland will create an environment that will be productive, collaborative and attract the talent that will set their business apart now and into the future.

“By implementing unified observability, full-fidelity visibility and acceleration technologies, they will be able to attract new talent, create new opportunities and build a productive and happy workforce, with hybrid at its core,” said Wilson. 

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