Our annual survey, The Voice of Digital Leaders in Manufacturing, is a joint venture between Copperberg and Valtech. The full survey will be released soon, but we are confident in reporting on the trends that have emerged.

Author Nick Saraev

Photo: Freepik

Lisa Hellqvist from Copperberg and Herbert Pesch, Vertical Lead B2B at Valtech sat down with Peter Simon, Team Head Web & Digital Solutions, Sika and Jelle Rijswijk, Managing Director Digital Service Factory, Vanderlande to delve deeper in to what is the factors and drivers behind these trends in a dedicated Thought leader webinar December 2022.

Who Responded to the survey? 

Before we dive into the survey results, let’s look at who exactly was responding to the questions. 

Some respondents were involved in a mixture of B2B and B2C manufacturing; however, you had to be involved with B2B manufacturing to be included.

As the name suggests, all respondents had, at minimum, a managerial position in digital. Their team’s annual turnover had to be 250 million euros minimum to qualify, and the operation had to be international. 

The goal of these stipulations was to give the study credibility and to look at the trends present in more mature companies to get a feel for the industry on a large scale. 

The Structure of the Survey 

This survey consisted of both a quantitative and qualitative portion. There was a section of open-ended questions for the respondents to engage with, leading to the name “the voice of digital leaders.” We’ll take a look at the statistics first, then move on to the qualitative responses. 

Organization Digital Transformation: How B2B companies are transforming to become future-fit

Here are some of the preliminary findings from the initial analysis of the data:

  • 64% of digital leaders have a strong digital ambition. This is down from 75% in 2021. 
  • 42% of companies plan to invest the same amount they did last year into digital initiatives, while 47% plan to invest more. This is significantly down from the 80% who planned to increase spending in 2021. 
  • IT was named the most influential department when it comes to digital initiatives by 42% of respondents, followed by Marketing (36%) and Sales (24%). 

Herbert Pesch, the vertical lead for B2B at Valtech, posits that one of the reasons for this shift away from extensive spending is a more realistic approach to digital innovation. “Last year, we had the pandemic almost over… everyone had super enthusiastic ambitions. Maybe a little bit too much.” 

He notes a shift from people claiming to be far ahead of other companies on the digital maturity scale, to recognizing their position as comparable. With most companies planning to spend only between 1-20% more on digital growth, we can see that companies are starting to hesitate and pump the brakes on their innovation. 

Jelle Rijswijk, the Managing Director of digital services at Vanderlande, brought forward the idea that the pandemic brought into sharp focus the importance of digital innovation for many companies. “Digital is really not just a strategic theme on a PowerPoint. We need to invest in it because the necessity went extremely high in the last two years.” 

The investments being made this year are likely less about innovating and more about securing what was created and keeping it stable. 

Peter Simon, the Team Head of Web and Digital Solutions at Sika, reiterates this idea, stating, “The last two years were for digital transformation. There was a huge acceleration…. But at the end of the day, this growth is not sustainable.” He went on to say, “We have to slow down because people can not cope with the changes so fast.” 


As an element of this survey, every year, we ask the respondents to describe the digital state of their organizations in one hashtag. 

Here are a few of the respondents answers: 

  • #NewValuePropositions
  • #LackOfResources 
  • #clumsy 
  • #acceleration
  • #growing
  • #SendHelp

Business Strategy: Preparing for a future of change 

The top three objectives for digital transformation were 

  • Become more cost-efficient by optimizing current procedures and resources
  • Customer loyalty and satisfaction via better experience and delivery
  • Upselling to existing customer pool

When asked what the main external threats (multiple choice) to their organization’s success were. Here are the voted top 3 by the respondents:

  • Rising cost of operations
  • Supply chain disruptions
  • Lack of workforce

Simon points out that with so many surprises and new challenges impacting the supply chain, it becomes challenging to deliver on your promises. The sales life cycle is getting shorter every year, and as wonderful as loyalty is, it isn’t as common as it once was. 

Digital automation can only fix so much, Rijswijk continued. If you don’t have the people to deliver products or interact with customers, you will not be able to build what you need. 


When we asked respondents to provide a hashtag describing the goal of their digital transformation, this is what they said. 

  • #CustomerSatisfaction 
  • #Speed
  • #Simplification 
  • #Service 
  • #Integration 

Technology: Getting the most out of your investments

When asked what the biggest hurdle to getting the most out of IT investments was

  • 29% of respondents said cultural transformation (organizational change) 
  • 25% said the siloed departmental structure of information 
  • 20% said the integration of technologies with infrastructure 

Rijswijk touched on the challenges with having to digitize every part of the information flow through departments. “This makes it more value added in the end, but complex to get there.”  He went on to say that if the information is siloed, it will ultimately make it harder to change the culture because the process is not working. 

The culture has started to change, as demonstrated by Simon’s story about a potential candidate that the marketing, IT, and sales teams all want to hire. We are moving towards more hybrid positions where tech employees will also have an understanding of marketing and business. 

It’s a draw: the technology foundations of the digital strategy are mainly based on platform solutions (39%) and composable (43%). 

This points to the way composable elements are transforming the IT landscape. 

Simon dives into this concept, saying, “I think it’s a continuous fight between business and IT if we should follow some key objectives like reliability, performance, and stability, or flexibility and building whatever I want.” He went on to explain how this dichotomy leads to a hybrid system that focuses on both core values. 

The most targeted areas for digital transformation were 

  • Customer Portal 
  • Digital Services 
  • eCommerce 

Expert Insights: The advice you need to help you succeed

The full report features many more questions and answers, including how to use digital to build resilience, how to optimize growth, and more. For today, we’ll just look at a few pieces of advice the respondents wanted to leave people with when starting on the digital transformation journey. 

  • “Think big, start small, scale fast.” 
  • “You need to think big and get out of your comfort zone. Change is constant, and you will need an efficient team to make it happen.” 
  • “Set your vision, break it down into attainable goals.” 
  • “There is no such thing as low-hanging fruit. Those are rather duct tape solutions… a fundamental change and fundamental transformation will not come from low-hanging fruits, and also not from big platforms and huge everlasting programs for millions of dollars. Change is not happening tomorrow, it’s already happening.”
  • “Drive end-to-end success, but start small.” 

The Bottom Line

The digital landscape has undergone countless changes in the last couple of years, and companies are now deciding how important continued innovation is to them. With new challenges arising every day, from labor shortages to economic downturns, businesses have started to adopt a realistic approach to growth, and are focused on streamlining the processes they already have in place. 

The biggest goal for teams now is customer centricity. Every expansion is attempting to make it easier for customers to engage with them and increase loyalty. 

As we move forward into 2023, it’s vital that companies continue to learn and grow alongside one another. Gaining insights from studies like this and other education and networking opportunities from Copperberg will help push your team into a bright and innovative future. 

The final report of The Voice of Digital Leaders in Manufacturing 2023 is released February 2023. The final results will also be shared on the main stage of E-Connect Europe 2023, register to the event here.

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