Manufacturing Organization Embraces AI 

Microsoft Copilot Boosts Productivity

ETR Research 

| May 31, 2024

ETR Insights presents an interview with the Director of Technology for a small industrial manufacturing enterprise, who discusses the transformative impact of AI/ML on their operations, in particular Microsoft Copilot. While data security remains top of mind, our guest anticipates broader adoption of AI across manufacturing to enhance productivity, manage complex product lines, and mitigate staffing shortages. AI/ML is accessible without the substantial investment required for RPA, enabling small to medium-sized enterprises to compete more effectively.

Microsoft Copilot + O365. Our guest sees obvious potential for productivity improvements from AI within Microsoft’s suite. “It's not an exaggeration to say we probably have five people who are eight hours a day in Excel.” Some data must be converted to tables for AI to process—a modest learning curve—though they anticipate significant efficiency gains. “I can't say that there has been yet, but I'm pretty confident that within the next few months, we'll have those” gains. In Outlook, Copilot “does do a solid job of summarizing email threads. Sometimes, when you have email threads going back for months, that can be a fantastic use case. Excel and Outlook are really where we have spent our time with it.”

Microsoft is recognized for its exceptional handling of sensitive information. “The one thing that they do that everybody else hedges a little bit on is data security. In now working with them, we have our own instance and everything stays there. I’m very comfortable working with them.” They approach OpenAI more cautiously. “They really don't have as many guarantees.” However, our guest criticizes Oracle and other so-called legacy vendors' failure to keep pace with technological advancements. “A lot of these companies, they are great at adding new features. They're trying to get new customers and really expand. And then there's a point where they stop trying to do that, and they just try to maximize the spend of their existing customers.” Oracle has been slow to embrace open source and modernize their product offering. “Compared to what Microsoft is doing right now in Dynamics NAV, Dynamics NAV looks five or six years newer [than Oracle].” They feel similarly about Amazon AWS. “I haven't done as much work in there, but it doesn't seem that different than it did five years ago.”

ETR Data: Hidden in the top right of this data visualization, we see that Microsoft and OpenAI hold dominant positions within ETR's ML/AI sector, with both Pervasion and spending intentions Net Score ranking above 70%. Anthropic also boasts an extremely high Net Score but trails well behind in overall Pervasion.

Macro AI Overview. While many AI-driven technologies are still in beta, full deployment could significantly boost IT budgets. “I think IT spend will increase, and I think that's where the focus will be.” Our guest is already using Microsoft Copilot, and indicates manufacturing is eagerly anticipating more AI product releases. They expect AI/ML to boost productivity and efficiently manage detailed product information, especially in industries with complex product lines, and to help address staffing shortages. “We've also, like a lot of companies, struggled with the staffing issues. We have just a backlog of work, and being able to have AI help us with a lot of that could be huge.” AI will allow companies to “do more with less,” and bypass high labor costs in a competitive talent market.

They envision AI/ML as a more accessible and equitable solution than robotic process automation. “RPA is great, but that is something that you have to be willing to invest substantially in, and it's primarily for enterprise-level companies. AI is going to kind of level the playing field for some of the small and medium-sized companies that may not have the staff to work with some of the large catalogs out there.” At this company, funding for AI is not otherwise reducing technology spend. “It would fall closer for us in HR, personnel, and staffing types, than the typical technology budgets for computers, ERPs, CRMs, or any of that type of stuff.”

AI excels with general inquiries but can struggle to address the unique needs of niche industries. “Google is a great example of it, where I need to go and manually change stuff. It can get us 90% of the way there, but it's just not capable of the rest, things that you know from your industry. I think that's how AI could be for a while, where it can get you a chunk of the way but then not the rest.”

Enterprise Technology Research (ETR) is a technology market research firm that leverages proprietary data from our targeted IT decision maker (ITDM) community to provide actionable insights about spending intentions and industry trends. Since 2010, we have worked diligently at achieving one goal: eliminating the need for opinions in enterprise research, which are often formed from incomplete, biased, and statistically insignificant data. Our community of ITDMs represents $1+ trillion in annual IT spend and is positioned to provide best-in-class customer/evaluator perspectives. ETR’s proprietary data and insights from this community empower institutional investors, technology companies, and ITDMs to navigate the complex enterprise technology landscape amid an expanding marketplace. Discover what ETR can do for you at 

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