The digital revolution goes on in manufacturing, and with the disruption of the Covid19 pandemic many technologies have been accelerated. However, at the heart of its implementation and adoption is people.
Tom St John at The Manufacturer sat down with Mark Hughes, Regional Vice President UK & Ireland at Epicor during Digital Manufacturing Week. In this interview, Mark discuses the true potential of human centric Industry 5.0 and how far the relationship between people and machine technology has come, even in the last couple of years.
Watch the interview here
Can you explain what human centric Industry 5.0 is?
When I look at manufacturing in the UK I see so much excitement around industrial revolutions and Industry 4.0 and so on, but what I’m really excited about is suddenly we are realising that all of the automation and technology is great, but people are what we’re really good at.
Whether it be new ways of tapping into water pipes, whether it be gas connectors, whether it be the sheet metal fabrication – all of that has been designed by somebody, it all comes from people. Now, what we’ve been really bad at in the UK for so many years is being able to do that in a cost effective way to compete with other countries. That’s changing suddenly, everywhere else is becoming as expensive as we are. Our competitive advantage is coming back. So, to me, industry. 5.0 is about taking the best of the tech that’s out there and combining it with people.
Why has continuous improvement been necessary, and what has made it possible?
I try and avoid the buzzwords, but we are at a point of inflection where so many things have come together. Manufacturers around the world have had to continuously improve and evolve their products while technology has evolved as well.
I think one of the big things that changed over the last couple of years is cloud. I never thought I’d see UK manufacturers adopting the cloud like they have. They’re used to having machine tools, heavy equipment and having a server in the corner room.
I’m trying to avoid talking about the pandemic, but what it has done in some ways is accelerate change. We’ve got traditional manufacturers that I thought would never allow their employees to go and work from home and actually they’ve embraced that.
But then suddenly, they realise they’ve got no IT staff in the business. So cloud solutions, even just from a practical point of view, become much more interesting and much more valuable to them. It’s been a case of continuous adoption as well as continuous improvement, and I think it’s been tremendous.
Where have today’s innovators placed their bets on where to go from here?
I think for many years people have been talking about AI and machine learning and so on. But I think again, what industry 5.0 is about is the combination of those things. AI and ML can take us so far, but it’s still going to learn, and it’s going to learn from people.
Where are the innovators placing their bets at the moment? It’s in that intellectual capital, it’s in the people. When we came to Digital Manufacturing Week two years ago, we talked a lot about the skill shortage in manufacturing and engineering; it wasn’t a cool place to go. One of the problems with that was that people didn’t want to be on the shop floor for five days a week.
Now, a lot of our manufacturing customers and their design engineers can work from home two or three days a week. We can’t get really high-end CAD designers in the UK – it doesn’t matter, we’ll just hire them from other places and they can work remotely. So, the skills gap has closed as well in that time.
Find out who some of the other key players and exhibitors were in a round-up of day 1 at this year’s Smart Factory Expo