July 2023

Manufacturers Must Nurture Creativity and Avoid Burn-Out, Study Finds

A new study commissioned by digital manufacturer Protolabs highlights the challenges senior manufacturing professionals face under increasing pressure to innovate. The study, ‘The Balancing Act: Unlocking Innovation in Manufacturing, was carried out in partnership with B2B thought leadership agency FT Longitude and reveals that the most innovative executives excel in recognising the areas of business that require urgent attention, such as retaining talent, enabling creativity and avoiding burn-out.

servicing a robotic

The report reveals that manufacturers have never felt as much pressure to innovate as they do today. In fact, only 22% of the 450 manufacturing professionals surveyed believe this is not the case. Unprecedented demand for new ideas is being driven by a need to create new products and services faster, and to operate more efficiently and sustainably.

The study identified a ‘leaders’ group - separating out the responses of those who believe they are exceeding expectations in innovation, to understand how their attitudes set them apart. It found that leaders have a mindset that is more attuned to urgency and emerging opportunities. The ‘leaders’ group identified their chief challenges as needing to retain the brightest talent, prevent burn-out and champion human ingenuity in the AI boom.

Respondents were asked about working culture, processes and technology, revealing their attitudes and approaches towards supply chain strategy, employee working format and technology ventures, for example. Other respondents recognise that their businesses are not as good as they could be at “failing fast”, launching and scaling new products or services or working more collaboratively with third parties to bring new ideas to fruition faster.

Bjoern Klaas, Vice President and Managing Director of Protolabs Europe, said: “Businesses we speak to understand that innovation is more important than ever to enhance efficiency, create growth, and support sustainability. Professionals are feeling the pressure from their own businesses, customers, competitors and the industry as a whole. The decision to innovate is a significant one as it brings its own challenges, and the new strategies it requires can bring disruption to the business. More organisations need to get comfortable with risk – embracing the approach of failing fast and going through product iterations earlier.”

The study found that:

  • Almost two-thirds (65%) of leaders believe their businesses urgently need to update their approach to innovation and are actively seeking ways to do so

  • Nearly three-quarters (73%) of leaders say they’re worried about retaining their most innovative employees

  • Two-thirds (66%) of leaders believe human creativity is being overlooked through enthusiasm for new technology

  • More than a third (34%) of all respondents say their business is not as good as it should be at failing fast

Peter Richards, VP Marketing and Sales EMEA at Protolabs Europe, said: “In compiling the study, we isolated the professionals who are on the front foot when it comes to innovation, to give us an insight into what works for today’s leading innovation teams. It also gave us some perspective on where others may be falling short. Nurturing creativity is sometimes overlooked amid enthusiasm for new technologies such as AI. Adopting a greater sense of urgency was seen as being key to success, but the leaders are acutely aware that this comes with risks, such as potential burn-out, leading to the loss of top talent.”

Download your copy of The Balancing Act: Unlocking Innovation in Manufacturing to access the full report, with comprehensive insights from over 450 European manufacturing executives.