Metals technology trends and next steps for metals leaders

Tony Barnes
| 11/17/2023
Metals technology trends and next steps for metals leaders

The last few years have been a wild ride as metals companies have navigated supply chain disruptions, economic uncertainty, and increasing customer demands.

The pressure to meet these challenges and keep up with shifting industry trends caused spikes in technology investments and employee technology adoption uncertainty.

Now, the accelerated pace of technology development – particularly the advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) tools – has overwhelmed metals leaders with opportunities and challenges and amplified uncertainty among some of them.

However, metals leaders can overcome uncertainty within their companies and take confident steps into the future by gaining insight into industry trends and developing a deeper understanding of how metals technology can empower their teams.

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4 critical metals technology trends

The Crowe “2023 Technology in Metals Survey Insights” report analyzed data gathered from nearly 200 metals leaders across the industry as well as insights from metals technology specialists at Crowe. Four key metals technology trends emerged this year.

1. More companies are increasing their digital and metals technology investments

Year after year, metals companies continue to increase their digital technology investments as a percentage of total revenue. Additionally, 16% of companies said they planned to spend 5% or more of revenue on technology investments in 2023 compared to only 6% of companies making that same claim in 2022. The question is no longer whether companies should invest in new technology – the question is how much they should.

As metals companies make decisions about new digital and metals technology investments, it’s imperative that they provide an in-depth explanation for employees so that employees can better understand why they’re using the technology and how they can benefit from it. If workers don’t fully buy into the technology or receive support from company leadership, everything else – production, customer satisfaction, and business reputation – suffers. Employees perform the work and influence the customer experience, and empowering them is ultimately what will bring metals companies into the future.

2. Several metals technology challenges and risks persist

Several metals technology challenges and risks persist

Metals leaders named technology adoption uncertainty as the primary challenge in the digital transformation of their businesses. For the second year in a row, responses to an open-ended question regarding digital transformation challenges mentioned struggles with employee training, a lack of skilled resources, and change management. This year, adopting AI made its way into the top challenges as well, hinting at uncertainty regarding both employee adoption and the technology itself.

In addition, cybersecurity concerns among metals leaders continue to increase. In 2023, 63% of survey respondents named cybersecurity as the most significant IT-related business risk – a percentage that has increased by 34% in the last two years.

For years, metals leaders have pointed to broad concepts such as adoption uncertainty, employee training, and cybersecurity as areas of concern. Taking a closer look by observing how metals technology is being used and engaging with the people using it can help leaders gain deeper insight into the root causes of challenges and discover effective solutions.

3. Automation and data can increase productivity

Metals companies are turning to technology and data analytics as a primary means to increase productivity. “Operations and production” was the number one response for areas in which metals leaders thought automation could have the greatest impact on their business.

However, as metals companies turn to metals technology solutions to increase efficiency, they must not forget to support the people working with the technology. Establishing an employee feedback loop is one way metals leaders can make sure data and automation are managed effectively.

4. AI and advanced technology are becoming more popular

AI and advanced technology are becoming more popular

While the number of metals companies currently using advanced technologies remains low, survey data suggests a significant increase in metals companies planning to increase their technology investments in the next five years. For example, 41% of those surveyed in 2023 said they plan to use AI in the next five years compared to 32% in 2022.

As metals companies implement new and advanced technologies, they can expect to see a significant change in operational processes and efficiencies. It’s critical for executives to consider the implications that advanced technology might have on the way employees work and create a robust change management plan to support workers.

Innovation starts with people

The key factor that metals leaders must consider is this: Metals technology provides the tools to enhance operations, increase efficiency, and minimize time spent on tedious tasks, but people who use the technology are the real innovators. To realize the full benefits technology can offer, employees must be empowered and supported as new tools and processes are introduced.

If metals leaders don’t consider people first, their investments might not produce the greatest return, adoption uncertainty challenges might continue, productivity might not reach maximum potential, and the way people work might be hindered rather than enhanced by advanced technology solutions.

Get trends and insights

The Crowe “2023 Technology in Metals Survey Insights” report unpacks data and offers industry insights and next steps. Download the full report to gain a deeper understanding and lead your metals business – and the industry – into the future.
Tony Barnes
Tony Barnes
Principal, Microsoft Cloud Solutions Leader