To reap the rewards of the fourth industrial revolution, SMEs must start investing in equipment and processes now. Stuart Moran discusses how to seize the day with Industry 4.0.
The ongoing speculation and comment surrounding the impact of Industry 4.0 shows no sign of abating. As the descriptor for available digital technology solutions designed to optimise productivity in manufacturing, the anticipated revolution described by Industry 4.0 will be a new dawn for the ‘factories of the future’.
In the words of Juergen Maier, chief executive, Siemens UK, such a step change will, “utilise vast data volumes to enable manufacturers to ultimately produce batch sizes of one – but at mass market prices; and allow for the customisation of all manner of consumer and industrial products to meet market demand, made possible by flexible, highly connected and intelligence-led manufacturing processes.”
Respected commentators are in no doubt about the untapped potential of Industry 4.0. Professional services firm, Accenture said: “An industrial-scale version of Industry 4.0 could add $14.2 trillion to the world economy over the next 15 years, and the UK alone could benefit by up to $531 billion.”
While the creation of pivotal industry events, such as the ‘Industry 4.0 Summit’ (Europe’s first dedicated exhibition for the fourth industrial revolution, to be held in Manchester in 2017) signifies another milestone on the digital journey that will see a fundamental change in the way manufacturing businesses operate.
As Industry 4.0 begins to move from concept to reality, gathering pace and momentum as technology solutions start to deliver tangible benefits, the time is fast approaching when all parts of the manufacturing supply chain need to face up to the choice that confronts them, and begin to take the detailed steps required to strategically prepare for a digital transformation.
Automotive industry OEMs have always led the way in the application of automation to their processes. However, this pace of automation will need to accelerate if it is to meet the demands of the consumer – this will happen, and will be led by initiatives such as Industry 4.0.
If consumers want to tailor a new car digitally – one that will be made on a production line capable of making thousands of customised vehicles a day – then the UK needs a radical step change in investment and innovation.
The demands of the OEM will mean that SMEs and tier suppliers will need to invest in the right equipment and processes to enable them to be agile enough to meet increasing consumer demands for highly customised cars.
There are huge opportunities for SMEs in the UK’s expanding automotive industry supply chain, as long as they are committed to demonstrating both an ability to innovate, as well as a strong commitment to quality. Partnering with Siemens will help meet these challenges through the application of the latest automation technologies and the intelligent management of data.
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