World Manufacturing Forum Reports


In 2018, the World Manufacturing Foundation was formally established to undertake activities that promote industrial culture worldwide, enhancing manufacturing’s role as a positive driver for sustainability and societal growth. Expanding knowledge, promoting innovation and fostering cooperation in the manufacturing sector
have been our key strategic levers to advance our mission. The Foundation leverages on its experience of holding the annual World Manufacturing Forum which since 2011 has been an important platform bringing stakeholders together to discuss the most important trends in manufacturing.

The first World Manufacturing Forum Report: Recommendations for the Future of Manufacturing, published in 2018, analyzed key trends in the sector and presented our vision for the future of manufacturing. In 2019, the World Manufacturing Forum Report: Skills for the Future of Manufacturing underlined the importance of a skilled and educated manufacturing workforce.

Continuing this tradition of outlining the most important trends in the sector, this whitepaper focuses on what artificial intelligence means for the manufacturing sector. It will analyze in detail the trends in AI adoption, applications of AI in manufacturing, implications of AI on human capital, and the ethical, legal, policy and societal perspectives of AI. 

Through this report, we aim to add value by devising key recommendations, developed with a global group of experts, that could be adopted by stakeholders such as policymakers, companies, educators, and the society at large to promote a successful and trustworthy adoption of AI in manufacturing

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The 2020 World Manufacturing Report: Manufacturing in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Presents the global AI state of play, outlines the various applications of AI in the manufacturing value chain, investigates how AI is transforming the workforce, explains key relevant ethical and policy themes of AI in manufacturing, and finally lists 10 Key Recommendations for a successful and trustworthy adoption of AI in manufacturing.

Artificial Intelligence is not novel in manufacturing. In the last decade however, thanks in part to advancements in AI algorithms, computational power, connectivity, and data science, it has gained more importance as companies increasingly see it as a driver for competitive advantage. This is evident in the projected increase in global
revenues from AI for enterprise applications and a significant share of AI spending in manufacturing. However the lack of experienced talent to work with AI, lack of know-how, and the need for accurate data remain important challenges for organisations in adopting AI. Notwithstanding these, organisations are increasingly realising the potential of AI in bringing not only efficiencies in production but also new capabilities to stay competitive.

The impact of AI applications is significant across all levels of manufacturing activities and is expected to increase in the coming years. At the broadest Digital Supply Network (DSN) level, AI is has proved valuable in demand forecasts and the associated synchronized planning, automated warehouse management, automated design and development, and connected services. In the factory or shop floor level, AI applications are aimed at energy efficiency, product and process quality, scheduling optimisation, robotics, and enhancing the abilities of the human operator. At the most basic machine tool level where AI applications are most mature, automated quality inspection, monitoring, and control, data-driven tool wear models, and predictive maintenance stand to benefit from AI.

The 2019 World Manufacturing Forum Report: Skills for the Future of Manufacturing

Aims to explore in detail the skills gap phenomenon widely felt in the sector, identify the top skills needed by manufacturing workers, outline the main mechanisms in skills assessments and development, and finally, propose key recommendations to promote an educated and skilled manufacturing workforce.

The rapid pace of technological innovation is continuously changing the skill sets required to effectively perform roles within manufacturing. The lack of, and inability to acquire the necessary skills and competencies amplify skill gaps in workers and as a result, the industry is having increased difficulty in finding the necessary talent to fill manufacturing roles.

The 2019 WMF Report will examine the key evidence regarding the existence of skill gaps such as changing jobs in manufacturing, lack of required skills among workers, difficulty in finding talent, and the trend in STEM degrees. It will then analyse key underlying causes of the skills gap such as the introduction of advanced technologies and automation, challenges in the education system, disconnect between companies and institutions, lack of efficient training programmes, misperceptions of manufacturing jobs, demographic trends such as ageing population, and the lack of versatile skill sets in workers. The impacts of the skills gap on competitiveness of the sector and society will then be discussed in detail.