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A call to embrace Industry 4.0 goals

20 June 2016

Juergen Maier, chief executive of Siemens plc, believes that the UK has a major role to play in promoting the adoption of Industry 4.0 digital technology solutions. However, we first need to develop an aptly skilled workforce to capitalise on the opportunities that a digital future can deliver. 

Speaking as a panel member at the Cheltenham Science & Business Summit 2016, which was debating the digitisation of industry, Maier clarified that the term ‘Industry 4.0’ can be used as a descriptor for available digital technology solutions designed to optimise productivity in manufacturing to a level where a high wage economy can compete within a globalised manufacturing environment.

He said: “Industry 4.0 is the technology behind the vision of a fourth industrial revolution and has been proactively adopted by the German Government to drive a manufacturing revolution in that country. The potential of digital technologies to use vast data volumes lies at the heart of solutions that have the potential, for example, to enable manufacturers to produce a batch size of one – but at mass market prices. In essence, it will allow for the customisation of all manner of consumer and industrial products to meet market demand, and will be made possible via flexible, highly connected and intelligence-led manufacturing processes. The German government recognises the potential of digital technology within a manufacturing environment and is encouraging and supporting its manufacturing base to invest accordingly.”

Maier believes that today’s Industry 4.0 cyber-physical systems can allow manufacturers to re-assess their processes and business models so that they can improve productivity and customised market responsiveness – both key factors for success within an increasingly competitive and globalised marketplace.

“The ability to extract, hold and interrogate huge volumes of data will also enable businesses to better manage their assets in all kinds of ways, offering, for example, the ability to vastly improve factory efficiencies and contribute to improving Britain’s productivity performance which currently lags behind many leading industrial nations,” he said.

Ensuring that the UK builds a workforce with the right digital skills for the future is critical, and Maier says it is essential that the next generation’s interest in science, technology, engineering and maths is encouraged so that our future engineering resource requirements can be met. Maier has called upon the UK’s manufacturing sector to embrace the possibilities digital technology solutions offer and to get prepared for the seismic change the digitisation of industry will bring within the next five years.

He concluded: “I would urge all stakeholders, including policy holders within Government, to grasp the strategically important opportunity that lies before us. This is an exciting moment in time for the world of engineering and manufacturing. The UK’s industrial sector must ensure it is at the forefront of the digitisation of industry, that we all promote its benefits and we upskill our workforce to make the most of a unique opportunity. By doing so we will help put in place the foundations to ensure that the 4th industrial revolution provides tangible economic success, drives growth and creates high value jobs for the UK – something we all want to see.”

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