May 16, 2020

PwC: digital factories shaping the future of manufacturing

Smart Manufacturing
Georgia Wilson
3 min
robot carrying out manufacturing task
Manufacturing Global gains further insight into how digital factories are shaping the future of manufacturing.

Digitalisation - a constant trend drivin...

Manufacturing Global gains further insight into how digital factories are shaping the future of manufacturing. 

Digitalisation - a constant trend driving change within the manufacturing industry. The concept of a digital factory is challenging companies to implement innovative technology, and look for employees with different fundamental skills required in a traditional company. 

Within the region leading manufacturers are deploying a number of key emerging technologies including:

  • Big data analytics solutions

  • End-to-end, real time planning and connectivity

  • Autonomous systems

  • Digital twins

  • Worker augmentation

These technologies are providing significant value within the industry in terms of efficiency and customisation. However PwC states that the full effect of digitalisation can only be realised when companies are connected in real-time to suppliers and critical customers.

PwC recent research shows that leading industrial companies are moving beyond the pilot stage and are now ready to invest in rolling out these digital solutions. 


Key finds from the PwC report:

Digital factories at the top of the Agenda

PwC’s survey reports that 91% of industrial companies are investing in digital factories, however only 6% rate their factories as ‘fully digitised’.

Digital supports customer centricity and regional manufacturing

75% of industrial company participants highlighted regional manufacturing for better customer proximity, individualisation and flexibility as the main reason for further investing in their digital factories.

Digital factories on the rise

93% of respondents plan to further invest in digital factories which will be located in Germany over the next five years. While 75% are planning to set up new or expand their existing digital factories in Germany and Western Europe.

Digital factories are a strategic investment

Almost 50% expect a return on investment (ROI) from their digital operations within the next five years, while only 3% expect a ROI within one year.

Expected efficiency gains in the next five years

98% of participants named efficiency as the main reason for investing in digital factories, with an expectation to see an efficiency gain of 12% over the next five years.


Connecting factories internally and externally, through an integrated manufacturing execution system (MES) is the first step to digitalisations. In order to see the most benefits these systems need to be integrated with an ERP infrastructure to digitise across the entire supply chain.

Leaner and more productive operations

Digital technologies such as cobots, digital twins and augmented reality are helping organisations get more done, faster, and improving processes and product quality. PwC predicts that implementations of these technologies will double in the next five years.

Smart decision making

Driving digital factories forward is the use of artificial intelligence and data analytics, over 50% of companies are using smart algorithms to make better operational decisions. This form of technology will be a ‘must-have’ among future digital factories in order to stay competitive.

A digital workforce

With innovation comes new ways of working, as a result workforces will need to change and companies will need to recruit and retain employees accordingly.

Leaders of digital transformation

In order to implement a successful digital transformation, top management must lead and provide guidance.

To read the full PwC report, Digital Factories 2020: shaping the future of manufacturing, click here!

For more information on manufacturing topics - please take a look at the latest edition of Manufacturing Global.

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Image source: PwC

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Jul 30, 2021

First Solar to Invest US$684mn in Indian Energy Sector

Elise Leise
3 min
First Solar will launch an advanced PV manufacturing plant in Tamil Nadu to support Indian solar independence

First Solar is about to set up a new photovoltaic (PV) thin-film solar manufacturing facility in Tamil Nadu, India. The 3.3GW factory will create 1,000 skilled jobs and is expected to launch its operations in Q3 of 2023. According to the company, India needs 25+ gigawatts of solar energy to be deployed each year for the next nine years. This means that many of First Solar’s Indian clients will jump at the chance to have access to the company’s advanced PV. 


Said Mark Widmar, First Solar’s CEO: ‘India is an attractive market for First Solar not simply because our module technology is advantageous in its hot, humid climate. It’s an inherently sustainable market, underpinned by a growing economy and appetite for energy’. 

A Bit of Background 

First Solar is a leading global provider of photovoltaic systems. It uses advanced technology to generate clear, reliable energy around the world. And even though it’s headquartered in the US, the company has invested in storage facilities around the world. It displaced energy requirements for a desalination plant in Australia, launched a source of reliable energy in the Middle East (Dubai, UAE), and deployed over 4.5GW of energy across Europe with its First Solar modules


The company is also known for its solar innovation, reporting that it sees gains in efficiency three times faster than multi-crystalline silicon technology. First Solar holds world records in thin-film cell conversion efficiency (22.1%) and module conversion efficiency (18.2%). Finally, it helps its partners develop, finance, design, construct, and operate PV power plants—which is exactly what we’re talking about. 

How Will The Tamil Nadu Plant Work?

Tamil Nadu will use the same manufacturing template as First Solar’s new Ohio factory. According to the Times of India, the factory will combine skilled workers, artificial intelligence, machine-to-machine communication, and IoT connectivity. In addition, its operations will adhere to First Solar’s Responsible Sourcing Solar Principles, produce modules with a 2.5x lower carbon footprint, and help India become energy-independent. Said Widmar: ‘Our advanced PV module will be made in India, for India’. 


After all, we must mention that part of First Solar’s motivation in Tamil Nadu is to ensure that India doesn’t rely on Chinese solar. ‘India stands apart in the decisiveness of its response to China’s strategy of state-subsidised global dominance of the crystalline silicon supply chain’, Widmar explained. ‘That’s precisely the kind of level playing field needed for non-Chinese solar manufacturers to compete on their own merits’. 


According to First Solar, India’s model should be a template for like-minded nations. Widmar added: ‘We’re pleased to support the sustainable energy ambitions of a major US ally in the Asia-Pacific region—with American-designed solar technology’. To sum up: Indian solar power is yet the next development in the China-US trade war. Let the PV manufacturing begin. 


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