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