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It’s time to get a handle on Industry 4.0

06 February 2017

A new report from the EEF, the manufacturers organisation, aims to prepare UK manufacturers for the practicalities of Industry 4.0. 

The report aims to break the concept of Industry 4.0 down into digestible chunks and help manufacturers make the connection between theory and practice. It uses real-life manufacturing case studies to enable them to then envisage how Industry 4.0 technologies and techniques could work in their own business.
 
The move follows a series of focus groups with manufacturers across the UK and research showing that just 42% have a good understanding about Industry 4.0. At the same time, however, manufacturers are aware that it will lead to crucial transformation both at a business and industry level.
 
Over 61% of manufacturers say that digital technologies will boost productivity, while 74% say that Industry 4.0 will fundamentally change their customers’ expectations. This, in turn, will require firms to change and adapt in order to meet marketplace needs.
 
Almost 68% of manufacturers believe that Industry 4.0 will happen faster than previous changes in manufacturing. And, while most are confident about managing the pace of change, nearly 40% are concerned about their firms’ ability to keep up.  The report authors warn that, while Industry 4.0 will herald smarter production, relationships and products and will boost the number of high-skilled jobs in the UK, the speed of change will be unprecedented, leaving little room for complacency. 
 
The report identified a need for greater communication across supply chains and industrial sectors about the benefits of this manufacturing evolution. And, while the Industry 4.0 journey may start with optimising existing business processes, there are steps beyond technology that manufacturers need to take to prepare their business. These include applying visionary thinking, changing the internal culture towards innovation and boosting the role of IT and technology in decision making.
 
Commenting at the launch of the report, Lee Hopley, chief economist at EEF, said: “The fourth industrial revolution is happening and the UK’s success in this global industrial transformation will hinge on manufacturers’ strategies and ambitions. It goes far beyond simply investing in new technologies and techniques – this new era requires cultural shifts, new business models and the ability to adapt and innovate.”
 
 
Vikram Singla, product innovation and supply chain Apps leader at Oracle, said: “It is encouraging to see UK manufacturers have taken note of the major changes coming to their industry and the role of technology. The technological element of this transformation is critical as it will mean change happens at unprecedented pace.  Cloud computing in particular and the scale, speed, flexibility and agility it enables will mean businesses will very quickly be able to make changes to everything from production processes to the way they manage their supply chains, product innovation and customer relationships. Similarly, in a smarter, more technological age of manufacturing, cloud will help businesses to collect and analyse the data created by their business processes, instilling a culture of constant improvement, refinement and efficiency.”

The report identifies three key stages to the Industry 4.0  journey, all of which will be tailored to a company’s own strategy and growth plan. There is recognition of the need to get on top of the change and to gain an understanding about where and how it will apply to processes, across the supply chain and in products. The manufacturing sector is on the cusp of the 4th industrial revolution, ushering in new technologies and techniques that will change the products, processes and supply chains involved in every aspect of industry, says the report. This technology will enable manufacturers to maintain their competitive edge in a rapidly changing world, and respond flexibly and quickly to customers’ requirements.

A copy of the report can be downloaded from  www.eef.org.uk/fourthindustrial


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