The Made Smarter review, which the UK Government commissioned, has suggested that the UK’s manufacturing sector could generate £455bn for the economy over the next decade, creating thousands of jobs in the process.
This is providing, however, that it can adopt new technologies to truly embrace Industry 4.0.
This is the challenge for many of today’s manufacturers: how to get to grips with technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics and maximise their potential.
What Does Industry 4.0 Mean?
“Industry 4.0 is also known as the fourth industrial revolution, involving automation and the exchange and application of data in manufacturing technologies. It may seem like a big leap forward, and for some manufacturers, a leap into the unknown.”
A 2018 PwC survey has revealed that in the UK:
- Only 1% of manufacturers have implemented AI
- 24% see the potential in adopting AI
Meanwhile, globally, 66% of companies say their leadership has no clear vision for a digital future.
“There are tangible benefits to be had from Industry 4.0, but there are perceived obstacles to adopting AI. Consequently, the current pace of change in the UK is slow.”
These perceived obstacles include uncertainties about return on investment and not enough knowledge of how to integrate these technologies practically and effectively, and a lack of relevant workforce skills.
“For some, it is proving difficult for them to grasp how to make the promise of Industry 4.0 into something practical, where they can start using and experiencing the benefits it brings.”
Evolution or Revolution?
Before Industry 4.0, Industry 3.0. involved the automation of single machines and processes. Could it be used as a stepping stone towards full digitalisation of the manufacturing process, where data is fully integrated and helps create value?
“Manufacturers may be more digitalised than they fully realise. Consequently, digital need not be something scary, but rather something to build on, that they already are making use of.”
Robotics are on the increase in manufacturing. A report from Barclays Corporate Banking has indicated that basic forms of automation have been taken on by 76% of the businesses it surveyed.
“Encouraging greater investment in, and uptake of AI may involve educating businesses, to help them see that transformation need not be a radical leap forward, but more the evolution of an existing approach”
This is a process of optimisation as a crucial stage in preparing manufacturers for increased changes.
“It can be about refining and improving certain processes which lead to an overall improvement in performance and productivity.”
Examples include predictive maintenance in some industries, and the optimisation of both processes and supply chains in others.
“Revolution can be incremental. That’s a key message to get across to UK manufacturers,” concludes Paul. “With the right advice on how to optimise what they do, they can start to experience tangible benefits of Industry 4.0 sooner rather than later.”
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