How can Swiss companies turn into digital operations champions?

PwC Global Industry 4.0 Study 2018

Get the Swiss results here.

Digital transformation is the most critical challenge for industrial companies worldwide. PwC’s new study “How to Be a Digital Operations Champion – Global Industry 4.0 Study 2018” shows that as far as Swiss companies are concerned, they have not quite exploited their full potential yet.

The study evaluates the digital ecosystems of companies and to what extent new technologies have been implemented. At the same time it highlights the influence of new technologies on the workforce and corporate culture. The companies that were included in this study were also asked about the digitalisation projects they were planning to realise over the coming five years. The study is based on a survey of 1,155 industrial companies in 26 countries around the world – with a separate country report on Switzerland.

One conclusion of the study is that world-class digital champions are relatively rare in Switzerland, and too many Swiss businesses consider themselves digital novices. The Asia/Pacific region is leading the digital transformation, Europe, generally, is struggling to keep up.

Using digital technology is crucial to be able to compete. Over 40% of companies have already implemented key new technologies, over 70% are planning to do so over the next five years. Revenue increases of 15% and efficiency gains of 12% are expected from digital technology implementation over the same period.

The use of new technologies can therefore bring tangible competitive advantages. Plans for digital solutions and their subsequent introduction are focusing on areas such as predictive maintenance of assets and products, integrated end-to-end supply chains and the use of robotics.

Graph 1: Benefits of Investing in Digital Technologies. Average benefits over the next five years by world region.

Digital champions, i.e. around 10% of global manufacturing companies, are offering their customers digital ecosystems that link their operations and technology to their customers. New technologies are being deployed comprehensively to enable collaboration along the entire value chain. Digitalisation offers large companies the opportunity to increase production in mature markets and close to customers.

Regional differences indicate that the Asia/Pacific region is leading the digital transformation. APAC companies are most advanced on the path to digitalisation and highly optimistic about the benefits of applying digital technologies (58%). American companies (54%) are positioned slightly behind Asia, while Europe (42%) is struggling to keep up.

Manufacturing execution systems and robotic process automation are rather wide-spread among Swiss companies. At the same time, their digital corporate culture is well advanced. However, when it comes to integrated end-to-end supply chain planning and artificial intelligence, the Swiss are lagging behind their competitors, in particular compared to Asian and American companies. The 50 Swiss companies interviewed in the study are markedly less digitalised than their international competitors. Too many Swiss businesses consider themselves digital novices, and digital champions are relatively rare in Switzerland. Exhibiting their confidence in the new technologies, Swiss industry decision-makers are expected to take considerable steps towards a more stringent implementation of Industry 4.0 over the next five years. In addition, a trend towards shifting certain production steps back to Switzerland is gaining momentum.

Roger Müller, Head Digital Operations PwC Switzerland, explains: “Of the Swiss respondents, almost half (41%) believe that the future will see more products produced in their own country. Increased automation could support Switzerland’s competitiveness by lowering production costs and allowing companies to move production back to mature markets and thus closer to their customers.”

Graph 2: New technologies: what is the Swiss status quo? Question: To what extent have you implemented the following technologies within your company? (50 companies in Switzerland, in comparison with 1,155 companies worldwide)

Artificial intelligence, a widely-discussed topic, is beginning to be implemented. A mere 15% of companies worldwide – and only 1% in Switzerland – are on record for already having implemented or piloted AI solutions, mainly in the areas of production and R&D. Artificial intelligence has the potential to revolutionise the quality of operational decision-making. The challenges of introducing artificial intelligence solutions are that employees are unfamiliar with these new technologies, which makes their implementation challenging and their benefits uncertain. What is more, there is a lack of transparency and trust. In many cases, the technology in question is not mature enough and usable solutions are not yet ready for the market.


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Roger Müller
Head Digital Operations
PwC Schweiz
Tel. +41 58 792 16 37