Britain’s response to Industry 4.0

Gavin Davidson – Netsuite’s Industry Lead, Manufacturing, discusses how the nation’s designers and manufacturers can respond to Industry 4.0, and the many opportunities it offers.

Why has NetSuite got behind Autodesk and The Manufacturer’s Future of British Manufacturing Initiative (FOBMI)?

Gavin Davidson, vertical industry lead - manufacturing, NetSuite
Gavin Davidson, vertical industry lead – manufacturing, NetSuite.

We are leaders in cloud ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems, which our customers use to drive how things are designed and manufactured. But unlike traditional ERP, which has gained a poor reputation, NetSuite is specifically designed for agile, dynamic organisations, often start-ups or SMEs.

NetSuite began a deep partnership with Autodesk several years ago, because Autodesk has really driven the concept of an ‘innovation platform’ – something we see as critical in modern manufacturing.

Autodesk offers a very strong ‘design and engineer’ experience, so adding our cloud-based business solutions to that helps create a more complete experience, making an organisation’s information more readily available for people wherever they are, on any device. Together we support manufacturers from the initial idea through design; test; build, and sale to the customer, as well as distribution and servicing.

Today’s manufacturers need to be agile and quick. They need to exploit new ideas rapidly, bringing them to market fast. That’s what we help our customers to do, and that’s why we are supporting this initiative.

What opportunities do you think Industry 4.0 creates?

Collaboration and communication, the ultimate representation of which is the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

NetSuite FOBMI FOMT PQ - May 2016If we are going to make IIoT a reality, there has to be some form of intelligence and interaction between the data being sent and received, otherwise it’s just another version of EDI [electronic data interchange].

For IIoT to work effectively and efficiently, a machine or device has to automatically sense those around it; communicate the type of information it contains and is able to pass on; transform that information and then communicate it to the next logical machine or device, and so on.

This is already giving rise to new types of business, new ways of working and a different approach to products and services.

What do you see as some of the main barriers to adoption?

By the time a company has made significant investments on hardware to get all of its equipment up to date, there isn’t any money left for software to enable all of the equipment to communicate.

Manufacturers, particularly mid-market players, need a robust, reasonably priced IIoT solution; whoever does that will be in a very strong position.

All of this, though, requires rapid change and that’s something many of us are afraid of undertaking.

FOBMI Link - May 2016Trying to make any change or customisation to legacy, on-premise systems typically requires yet more investment, which many companies simply won’t or can’t accommodate. There’s also a real fear of change, not just to the business, but of damaging the systems that underpin operations.

A way of taking that fear out of the equation is through NetSuite and Autodesk PLM 360, for example; both of which are customisable, without any effects down the road, and you always have the most up-to-date version and the latest functionality.

What are the first steps a manufacturer can take to move towards Industry 4.0?

  1. Firstly, you have to look at getting your whole business, or as much of it as possible, into the cloud. That will make you more streamlined and able to respond to market change.
  2. Many businesses typically have an IT person or team responsible for tasks such as updating drivers, changing hard drives, ordering laptops, etc. The great advantage of cloud is that it removes a lot of that burden, so your IT person or team can reorient towards a more valuable function, like business process improvement.
  3. Complete FOBMI’s 20 minute self-assessment tool to gauge your readiness for the Future of Making Things – which also provides you with instant feedback on ways to improve your readiness.
  4. Finally, get yourself along to one of the upcoming Future of Making Things events – free to attend for manufacturers: