NPI Survey Reveals That Europe is Poised For Digital Transformation

Paul McNamara Author

As we were going through the data from EU-based businesses in response to our NPI Survey one thing stood out above all others–an astonishing number of respondents in Europe are undergoing digital transformation efforts, and if they’re successful, we could be on the verge of a renaissance in manufacturing technology on the continent.

Before we dig into the data, let’s talk for one moment about the survey and its respondents. Supplyframe commissioned a survey asking electronics firms about the difficulties of launching a new product in today’s shortage-defined environment.

The results were interesting, if not slightly predictable. We heard that it’s tough to keep a BOM updated in the face of increasing product complexity. We heard that it’s difficult to stay on top of prices and supply volatility. And we were resoundingly told that current NPI systems don’t provide insight into full lifecycle costs.

What We Saw In The EU Data

The European Survey was relatively similar to the U.S. version. Our respondents work in a broad spectrum of industries within the global electronics value chain: 

  • Industrial Equipment and Heavy Machinery (23%) 
  • Automotive and Mobility (24%) 
  • Aviation, Aerospace, and Defense (16%)
  • Consumer Electronics (18%) 
  • Computer Systems (22%) 
  • Telecom / Networks (16%) 
  • Medical devices (11%) 

And these are not small companies either. Out of 250 respondents, 60% or 150 firms, take in more that $750M in annual revenue, and 32% claim income of more than $2B. These are businesses that have an effect on Europe, and the world.

Now, The Good News

The series of questions that raised eyebrows during data analysis was around digital transformation efforts currently underway in our respondents’ firms. It was high. 93% to be precise. So 232 firms out of 250 have some type of digital transformation effort underway.

And most of them haven’t just started dipping their toes in it either. The majority of respondents, 52%, have been at it for more than a year, and at least a quarter of respondents have three years of effort towards transformation already complete.

Looking Ahead

So, we have a large number of significant businesses that have dedicated themselves to a digital transformation effort, and we know that half of them have been at if for a year or more. The next thing that stood out to us was the expected time frame for completion. It tells us we have big things to look forward to from European Manufacturing in the next few years

As you can see only 10% of the businesses we talked to are still in the planning phase. 40% are midway to completion, another 40% are almost completed, and 10% of firms say their efforts are fully completed. A good 80% of businesses are halfway there.

“Midway” and “almost” leave some room for interpretation, so we drilled down on the next question and got more precise answers around precisely when the businesses we talked to expected to finish their digital transformation efforts. The answers were sooner than we expected across the board.

Only 13% of firms we talked to expect their transformation efforts to take longer than the next year to complete. This leaves 87% telling us that in one year or less they believe their efforts to modernize and update their supply chains to 21st century standards will be finished. Perhaps most interesting is the 46% who expect to finish their transformation in the next 12 months, since that’s almost half of our respondents.

It’s not that digital transformation efforts ought to take that long either. Today’s SaaS and cloud-based solutions offer much faster rollouts than older, infrastructure-based methods of digitization.

However, digital transformation is a process that looks different in each organization. For many, it’s also something that’s never quite finished. It’s an ongoing process that requires constant course-correction and adaptive teams that look for ways to constantly improve their approach. 

What Does This All Mean?

It means that European technology and manufacturing, already on a hot streak, could be on the way to reaching new heights in the coming years. The industry has new subsidies on the way from Brussels in the form of the EU Chips Act, and a general feeling of promise and potential.

Of course we don’t know whether the trend towards digital transformation is consistent across the entire EU electronics market, but it stands to reason that businesses big enough to pay attention will know what’s at stake. We hope that’s the case, and that a rising tide lifts all ships, which could make for a spring of growth and transformation in Europe’s electronics manufacturing sector.