Majority of Middle Market Manufacturers Recognize Industry 4.0 Opportunity

Alana Gold
Bliss Integrated Communication
[email protected]


Yet only 5% are ready to execute, BDO Benchmarking Survey Finds

Chicago – Ninety-nine percent of middle market manufacturing executives today are at least moderately familiar with Industry 4.0, according to BDO’s Middle Market Industry 4.0 Benchmarking Survey. But while more than half (54 percent) of middle market manufacturing executives have either developed or are in the process of developing an Industry 4.0 strategy, only 5 percent are currently implementing one. Another 25 percent plan to develop an Industry 4.0 strategy, but have yet to get started on it.

In its inaugural year, BDO's Middle Market Industry 4.0 Benchmarking Survey polls senior executives at U.S. manufacturing companies with annual revenues between $200 million and $3 billion on their Industry 4.0 readiness and strategic goals. The survey finds that middle market manufacturers have ambitious goals to transform their business models and are tentatively taking steps to digitize their operations. However, significant challenges lie ahead as they struggle to get major strategic initiatives off the ground.

“Over time, Industry 4.0 will radically transform how manufacturers derive and deliver value,” said Eskander Yavar, Industry 4.0 co-leader and national leader of BDO’s Management & Technology Advisory Services. “But the window of opportunity is closing fast. Manufacturers who don’t invest in 2019 risk falling behind the curve. The middle market is no exception.”


Additional top findings from BDO’s Middle Market Industry 4.0 Benchmarking Survey include:

  1. Business model diversification tops Industry 4.0 goals

Middle market manufacturers know that Industry 4.0 has the potential to transform their business. As they look beyond their immediate needs and toward tomorrow’s digital future, most (71 percent) are prioritizing business model diversification above all else; which suggests a fundamental shift in customer demand that can’t be met by the traditional manufacturing toolset. Improving operational efficiencies and increasing market penetration tie as the second most-cited goals, at 67 percent each.

  1. The biggest barrier to implementation is poor communication

Successful Industry 4.0 adoption requires collaboration between functional areas of the business that have historically operated in silos, like information technology and operations technology. Two in three executives view poor communication as the biggest barrier to successful Industry 4.0 implementation. Rounding out respondents’ top five implementation barriers is interoperability with legacy technology (64 percent), lack of skills or insufficient training (63 percent), lack of leadership and vision (60 percent), and underinvestment (54 percent).

  1. Industry outsiders pose the greatest threat

Even without manufacturing roots, a technology upstart has the potential to disrupt manufacturing, whether through hyper-customization or transforming the economics of production. As a result, middle market manufacturers are most (69 percent) concerned that failure to adequately invest in Industry 4.0 will lead to encroachment from non-traditional competitors.

  1. The digital thread is more theory than reality

In an idealized Industry 4.0 world, supply chains become the digital thread—integrated value chains with end-to-end traceability and transparency, enabled by the constant, bi-directional flow of information. Most middle market manufacturers, however, aren’t there yet. While just 7 percent of respondents say their data is totally siloed, pointing to increased information sharing internally, only 6 percent claim they have transparency across the entire value chain.

  1. Industry 4.0 is creating jobs.

While 63 percent of middle market manufacturers plan to leverage third-party outsourcing solutions to support Industry 4.0 enablement, more than half (57 percent) plan to hire new talent. To close knowledge gaps within their existing talent pools, 60 percent are implementing training to upskill current employees.
“Manufacturers must evolve their businesses to be successful in a service economy,” said Rick Schreiber, Industry 4.0 co-leader and national practice leader of BDO’s Manufacturing & Distribution practice. “That evolution starts with small, incremental investments in Industry 4.0 that deliver immediate ROI, while building towards a more digital future.”

The Middle Market Industry 4.0 Benchmarking Survey offers manufacturing executives a useful barometer to measure their Industry 4.0 maturity against their peers across six key dimensions, including: organizational strategy, governance, technology, process, data and security. Click here to see the full survey results.

About the 2019 Middle Market Industry 4.0 Benchmarking Survey
The 2019 Middle Market Industry 4.0 Benchmarking Survey was conducted by Market Measurement, Inc., an independent market research consulting firm. The survey included 230 executives at U.S. manufacturing companies with annual revenues between $200 million and $3 billion and was conducted in November and December of 2018.
BDO is the brand name for BDO USA, LLP, a U.S. professional services firm providing assurance, tax, and advisory services to a wide range of publicly traded and privately held companies. For more than 100 years, BDO has provided quality service through the active involvement of experienced and committed professionals. The firm serves clients through more than 60 offices and over 650 independent alliance firm locations nationwide. As an independent Member Firm of BDO International Limited, BDO serves multi-national clients through a global network of over 80,000 people working out of 1,591 offices across 162 countries.
BDO USA, LLP, a Delaware limited liability partnership, is the U.S. member of BDO International Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, and forms part of the international BDO network of independent member firms. BDO is the brand name for the BDO network and for each of the BDO Member Firms. For more information please visit: