Sponsored: Three Ways Technology Is Changing the Steel Industry in 2023

Written by Tony Barnes

The steel industry has faced intensified volatility in recent years as companies have navigated supply chain disruptions, economic uncertainty, and increasing customer demands. The pressure to overcome these challenges led to an increase in technology investments.

Many steel companies have turned to large-scale technology systems, including enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management platforms, to address business issues. However, as technology continues to evolve at an accelerated pace – particularly with the rapid increase in artificial intelligence (AI) applications – steel leaders seem to have more questions than answers about implementing and using technology as a solution.

Research shows technology investments are not slowing down, but the amplified uncertainty steel leaders are faced with leaves them wondering what the future of the industry might look like.

A Closer Look at the Data

For the past 12 years, Crowe has surveyed metals leaders to gather data and insights regarding the use of technology within their companies.

The Crowe “2023 Technology in Metals Survey Insights” report uncovered three key findings that reveal how the steel industry is changing as technology evolves.

  1. Customer needs are the top priority for technology investments

In 2023, 68% of survey respondents named customer needs and requirements as the number-one factor when making decisions about technology investments – a statistic that continues to rise.

Historically, steel leaders focused on controlling internal costs and improving operational efficiencies when deciding on technology investments. While those factors remain important, executives are increasingly considering customer expectations and the employee experience. This shift has resulted in more steel companies turning to non-traditional technology tools and platforms to enhance user experiences. These include employee collaboration tools, e-commerce portals, and augmented reality platforms.

  1. Employee experience is being elevated

Steel leaders named technology adoption uncertainty as the primary challenge in the digital transformation of their businesses today. 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.

As many steel companies face worker shortages and disengaged workers, survey results show 93% of companies are investing in technology to improve the employee experience. Effort is being made, but more can be done to support employees. Establishing a change management plan to guide and empower employees along the way is a critical step in helping workers overcome adoption uncertainty. Ensuring workers are a part of the process and their voices are heard is a key factor to attract and retain top talent.

  1. Work is shifting with the use of AI and advanced technologies

The number of steel companies that plan to use advanced technology like AI within the next five years has increased significantly. In 2022, 32% of those surveyed planned to use AI in the next five years compared to 41% in 2023. Every steel company should have a plan in place before the end of 2024 for how they will leverage AI’s capabilities to improve their business.

With the rise of advanced emerging technologies, steel companies can also anticipate a significant change in operational processes and how employees engage with technology. It’s critical for executives to consider the implications that advanced technology might have on the way employees work.

Innovation Starts With People

Technology trends from data shown in the “2023 Technology in Metals Survey Insights” report point back to the importance of people in the process of implementing and using technology. While technology provides the tools to enhance operations, increase efficiency, and minimize time spent on tedious tasks, it’s the people using the technology who power innovation.

The future of the steel industry has the potential to maximize growth with tools like e-commerce technology and AI, but companies might not realize the full benefits technology can offer without first recognizing and building internal processes that support their employees.

Gain More Insights Into 2023 Steel Technology Trends

The path forward might seem uncertain as circumstances and technology continue to evolve. But with a greater understanding of technology trends and insights from industry specialists, steel leaders can gain confidence in their technology investment decisions.

Download the Crowe 2023 Technology in Metals Survey Insights report today to see more data and gain a deeper understanding of what the next steps might look like.

Learn more about Crowe’s steel services here.

Tony Barnes

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