What matters in implementing the factory of the future: Insights from a survey in European manufacturing regions
Purpose: This paper aims to study the extent of the transformation of European manufacturing companies towards the factory of the future (FoF) and related concepts, e.g. Industry 4.0 and digitalisation. Design/methodology/approach: A qualitative survey design was used to investigate the areas, patterns and elements for implementing FoF. A total of 92 responses from manufacturing firms of Alpine regions were collected and analysed, followed by in-depth interviews with a subset of respondents to identify common challenges, drivers and opportunities for the transformation. Findings: Manufacturing companies are gaining awareness on their needs and gaps in the FoF path, the implications on business strategy and the rates of innovation and technology adoption. Nevertheless, they still need to shape their organisational structures (e.g. from highly centralised to more collaborative ones) and nurture their managerial capabilities in operations and supply chain management, and customer relationships, only partially based on FoF technologies. Research limitations/implications: This study aims to contribute to recent literature and practice of FoF (and related concepts) by depicting a picture of the possible areas of intervention, main issues and gaps (especially in terms of skills, supply chain and customer relationships) of manufacturing companies in their digital transformation. The qualitative research design and its scope represent the main limitations. Originality/value: This paper provides a systemic overview for FoF by encompassing the technological, strategic, managerial and organisational perspectives of digitalisation in manufacturing and integrating the insights from a multi-sectorial and multi-dimensional analysis.