Microsoft has partnered with Harvard Business Review on a report which addresses digital technology in manufacturing.

It found that manufacturing companies are "the least likely" to have taken steps towards digital transformation.

Called ‘Manufacturing Millennium: The 2020 Digital Transformation Agenda for Australia’s Manufacturing and Resources Industry’, the report includes commentary from local experts in the industry, including Australian Advanced Manufacturing Council, Thompson Couplings and Roy Hill.

They identified "an urgent need" for the manufacturing and resource industries to develop a more progressive mindset and invest in digital technology upgrades to stay relevant.

For the shrinking Australian manufacturing sector, embracing end-to-end digital design, prototyping, production, and distribution provides the means to compete and stay relevant, the report said. 

The survey found that two-thirds (66%) of business decision makers in manufacturing worldwide believe digital disruption is at least ‘somewhat likely’.

In many companies, however, business processes are codified in legacy information systems that stymie operational improvement and innovation, says the report.

Globally, according to the research, manufacturing companies are the least likely among nine major industries to have moved towards digital transformation.

More than one-third (34%) of business decision makers surveyed reported that few, if any, of their company’s products, operations, or business models depend on digital technologies.

In a risk-averse business culture, it can be difficult to craft a compelling case for fresh expenditures on cutting-edge technologies.

Progressive companies are nevertheless moving ahead and transforming their business and operating models.

They are adopting a range of disruptive technologies to improve processes, optimise the supply chain, deliver high-value products, and innovate so they are able to thrive in 2020 and beyond.

For Australian manufacturers, success in the near future depends a lot on new abilities rather than those that have been successful in the past, including becoming more efficient at smaller runs, adopting digital technologies, and exporting into the global supply chain, according to Mark Goodsell, executive director of the Australian Advanced Manufacturing Council (AAMC), a private-sector initiative to highlight and promote Australian success in high-end manufacturing.


  • 91% cite big data and analytics as important to their organisation’s success.
  • 66% consider digital disruption of manufacturing to be at least somewhat likely.
  • 59% have integrated some digital technologies into their operations.


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