Industry 4.0: grasping the future

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The most prominent challenges manufacturers face is the rapid technological developments characterising Industry 4.0.

Robert Joyce reveals how Grant Thornton is supporting manufacturers in taking the next step into Industry 4.0.

“I regard Brexit as just one of the many black swans that companies have to live with. And although it will have an impact, human beings and business have a great way of responding and adapting.”

These are the thoughts of Robert Joyce, former board member, engineering director, CTO and executive director of product creation and delivery for Jaguar Land Rover. And who better than an award-winning automotive engineer to comment on the health and future of the UK automotive sector?

Although Joyce is optimistic about the future of the industry, he is realistic about the challenges that the sector still faces, the most prominent of which he believes is the rapid technological developments characterising Industry 4.0.

“The most significant challenge is technology, in particular, tooling, tools, processes and products,” he explained. “If you look at the smart phone business and what smart phones can do, I think the automotive product is two to three years behind that.”

Joyce continued, explaining that as you delve deeper into the automotive supply chain this lag becomes more pronounced. “In the next 10 years, data is going to become 30-times quicker and more capable. So there really is an incredible demand for suppliers to catch up and embrace this growth. The entire supply chain has got to become more digitally savvy,” he added.

Supporting a smart move

Joyce emphasised that a partnership between government and industry was ‘vital’ to support this. In addition, he felt that a deep understanding of the sector and its suppliers, from “supply chain, funding and regulations to digitisations tools” was key to support the growth of digital tools.

“Also, encouraging the use of data, cloud-based services and systems, as well as analytics tools is a vital in building a bridge between the supplier and what is available to the consumer,” he said.

Currently, the availability of smart data on the automotive factory floor is what he called ‘fragmented’. One area where Joyce sees real value in ‘smart’ functions, is in tooling development, accreditation and scheduling.

“In the cloud-based world there could be one single tool that tracks tooling, the authorisation of APQP [advanced product quality planning] and PSW [part submission warrant], and then triggers e-payments for working capital for the suppliers. This will provide a quality tool, delivered on time, paid for and ready to build the product and make money.

“Grant Thornton is working on developing a process in this space and I think they’ll have something to offer their customers very soon,” Joyce said.

Grant Thornton & The Manufacturers MX Awards

Tool tracking isn’t the only way that Grant Thornton is supporting the manufacturing industry’s transition to a smarter future, the firm was a headline sponsor of The Manufacturer’s Annual Leaders Conference and on day two hosted a series of roundtables to discuss industrial strategy and manufacturing policy.

“By sponsoring this event, it shows Grant Thornton is committed to the industrial sector. There were five key group sessions, looking at supply chain; talent; working capital funding; regulation, and international growth.

“The intention was to discuss, with the people working directly in manufacturing, what needs to happen to support its growth. We asked how manufacturers are supporting each other. There has been a massive shift in technology and we want to help manufacturers exploit areas within and outside their industry, to get the best support for themselves,” Joyce concluded.