KPMG report forecasts era of "disruptive complexity" focused on profitable growth

May 30, 2014

Manufacturers are entering into a new era of “disruptive complexity” that is fundamentally changing the way they compete and succeed, according to the 2014 Global Manufacturing Outlook (GMO) from KPMG, New York, a global network of professional firms providing audit, tax, and advisory services.

“Over the past few years, manufacturers have seen an explosion of new technologies and innovative developments in material science, advanced manufacturing, and synergistic operating models,” noted Jeff Dobbs, global chair, industrial manufacturing and a partner with KPMG in the U.S. “With this accelerating pace of change, manufacturers the world over are now starting to take stock of the more complex world that they are operating in, and are using that insight to redefine 'the art of the possible.'"

In an attempt to capitalize on this environment, manufacturers say they will dramatically increase spending in R&D, pursue new collaborative business models, and integrate new technologies to analyze and stimulate profitable growth.

The GMO surveyed 460 senior executives across six industrial sectors split equally among the Americas; Europe, Middle East, and Africa; and Asia-Pacific.

Eighty-five percent of respondents said they plan to make either "moderate" to "substantial" investments in systems for product or service cost improvement over the next 12 to 24 months. Almost half of those surveyed plan to double R&D spending in product development in that time frame. Breakthrough innovation is gaining importance as a strategy for 39 percent of industrial manufacturers, up 8 percentage points from the 2013 GMO, representing a 25 percent increase in companies pursuing such strategies.

Manufacturers in Germany appear set to lead in breakthrough innovation, with 77 percent citing it as their primary R&D strategy for product development. Among the industrial sectors included in the survey, 50 percent of respondents from the conglomerates sector say breakthrough innovation will be their primary R&D strategy.

In terms of business models, 88 percent of respondents say partnerships over in-house efforts will shape manufacturers' approach to innovation, up significantly from 51 percent in KPMG's 2013 GMO. Additionally, 68 percent say they are adopting more collaborative business models with suppliers and customers.

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