Factories may not be the first place you'd expect to see demand for social technologies. But social networks are changing how manufacturers view their operations.

In a recent survey of 268 manufacturers, 63% of respondents said that enterprise resources planning (ERP) software will provide its highest value when integrated with social computing technologies. Users want ERP software to perform the functions of collaborative technologies and social networks.

But why do manufacturers want social technologies in the enterprise?

According to Manufacturing BusinessTechnology, a trade publication, they want to develop ways to share the knowledge of senior engineers and professionals. Among manufacturers with more than $1 billion in revenue, 72% said they wanted this capability.

Manufacturers are most interested in using data from social networks to capture leads, research competitors and perform business intelligence functions, such as product training. They are also interested in receiving contextual information from similar users at other companies, and troubleshooting.

Manufacturers are turning out to be the surprise adopters of Enterprise 2.0 technology. In a recent survey done by the 2.0 Adoption Council, manufacturers were some of the most eager adopters of social technologies.

The survey of manufacturing managers was done on behalf of IFS North America, one of the largest software providers to manufacturing markets. IFS is developing its open-source applications to fit the changing manufacturing landscape. For example, it is migrating away from static documentation technologies in favor of more collaborative applications such as wikis. Many manufacturing companies face an aging workforce. A new breed of socially oriented technologies will be considered part of doing business for a younger generation.

It's evident that real-time technologies, social networks and cloud-based services are having real impacts across our economy. In 2010, we expect to see clear examples of how these new messaging and communications services affect supply chains across multiple industries.