LONDON—Manufacturers in a wide variety of industries are investing in smart manufacturing technologies, such as additive manufacturing, augmented reality and collaborative robots. But, automakers and Tier One suppliers are leading the charge, according to a recently study conducted by ABI Research.

“The automotive industry has been a pioneer in adopting many transformative technologies because it has more of a need and a demand to increase flexibility and agility,” says Pierce Owen, principal analyst at ABI Research. “Some of the leading automotive OEMs, including BMW, Daimler, Ford, Honda and Volkswagen, have piloted and, in some cases, have scaled these technologies.

“While most industries have automated 20 percent to 30 percent of their operations, the automotive industry has automated closer to 50 percent of operations,” claims Owen. “This has resulted in more real-time operational data made available to [automakers] and their suppliers.

“As in many other industries, automotive manufacturing faces the challenges of bridging the gap between information technology and operational technology, and providing low-code or no-code tools for content creation, app development and logic configuration,” adds Owen. “While automotive manufacturers share many challenges with other industries, they often take them to extremes.

“For example, while all industries struggle right now to deploy new technologies and integrate them with current processes, the magnitude and complexity in automotive manufacturing present greater risks,” explains Owen. “One minute of downtime in automotive can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

“Automotive manufacturing deals with relatively high-value, high-volume and high-complexity products,” Owen points out. “Neither automotive OEMs nor their suppliers will take gambles on unproven technologies when it comes to their production lines.”