A catalogue of digital solution areas for prioritising the needs of manufacturing SMEs

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McFarlane, D 
Salter, L 

The digitalisation of the manufacturing industry is perceived to be critical for achieving future productivity gains. As a result, programmes such as Industry 4.0 (I4.0) have received a huge amount of attention. A series of authors have identified a gap in digitalisation research in the area of small and medium-sized manufacturing enterprises (SMEs). The majority of studies and developments are focussed on larger companies, disregarding SME-specific digitalisation challenges such as knowledge, resource, and technology-awareness limitations. Based on the literature, we believe that a major reason for the disconnect is the discussion of digitalisation from a technology-centric viewpoint. Instead, we propose a problem-centric view on digitalisation as a means of addressing operational challenges through digital technologies. The aim of this paper is to identify the solution areas associated with these challenges that are relevant to a majority of manufacturing SMEs. In this study, we collate a catalogue of digitalisation priorities, conducting workshops with manufacturing SMEs (n=128). The final catalogue comprises 59 items with a clear hierarchy. Out of all participants in the study, 86% ranked one of the top 5 items as a key priority for their business. This contribution can help focus research, systems development, and standardisation to increase accessibility to digitalisation for manufacturing SMEs.

Industry 4, 0, Manufacturing, SMEs, Digitalisation, Digital manufacturing on a shoestring
Journal Title
Computers in Industry
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Elsevier BV