Industry 4.0: transforming manufacturing, embracing digital

Posted on 26 Oct 2015 by The Manufacturer

A round-up of the ideas and discussions raised during an exclusive roundtable event hosted by The Manufacturer and Atos at the Atos Business Technology and Innovation Centre (BTIC) in London.

Bringing together a select number of senior decision makers and influencers from across the UK’s industrial landscape, the roundtable event focused on how digital solutions and technologies can impact the manufacturing sector – both now and in the future.

Atos & The Manufacturer Directive on Digital Transformation: Manufacturing ReportThe agenda focused on the four key customer transformation challenges (CTCs) to embracing digital identified by Atos, namely Operational Excellence, Customer Experience, Business Reinvention, and Trust & Compliance.

Following a brief introduction from Mukesh Parekh, Atos vice president of manufacturing and retail, and Henry Anson, managing director of The Manufacturer, attendees welcomed guest speaker, Brian Holliday, managing director of Siemens’ Digital Factory, to deliver the key note address.

Offering an overview of how he has seen digital transformation play out across Siemens’ operations, Holliday shared his experiences to date and a vision for the future of manufacturing.

With its Digital Factory clearly signalling Siemen’s digital future, Holliday outlined how Industry 4.0 builds on the sector’s legacy of embracing the transformational opportunities offered by technology.

“What can be seen all over the world are challenges facing the manufacturing sector; resource efficiency – both in terms of materials and energy – is impacting manufacturers of all sizes, more variability and personalisation desired from consumers requires more flexibility from manufacturers, and tremendous globalisation – particularly regarding digital advances – which is in effect compressing manufacturing,” he described.

Holliday continued, “Industry 4.0 will enable us to make use of smart products, to associate and interact with data from around the factory and create a greater level of autonomy. Creating a virtual design for both the product and the factory environment will create productivity by being able to design product to factory in parallel.

Brian Holliday, managing director, Siemens UK & Ireland.
Brian Holliday, managing director – Digital Factory, Siemens UK & Ireland.

“Virtualising will also help to introduce product to market not only quicker, but with better outcomes, alongside creating newer and smarter supply chains by better considering the business connections from the manufacturing base.”

According to the managing director, manufacturers are at the heart of what is potentially a very different form of production, leveraging the Internet of Things and built on what he termed, a data backbone, of industrial communications, database services and data security.

To illustrate how a combination of people engagement, value stream mapping and applying technology in the right way can ensure competitive advantage, Holliday offered the dramatic example of a Siemens variable speed drive. Five years ago, a VSD had a build time in excess of 96 hours; today it can be measured in minutes, 66 to be precise.

Holliday closed his address with a question for attendees to consider, “At this point, do we wait for 10, 15, 20 years to get to a stage where this technology is fully developed, or do we start to think about the challenges and start today?”

Transforming Manufacturing, Embracing digital
Holliday shared his experiences to date and a vision for the future of manufacturing.

He argued that now is the perfect time to start thinking about these technologies; data backbones and available connectivity, and to engage in the discussion that will help better shape the way that digital feeds the productivity that is increasingly necessary to build a more complex, productive future.

Attendees  then split into groups and were invited to discuss each of Atos’ four key customer transformation challenges (CTCs) in turn, focussing on real world examples of where Atos had seen these play out in manufacturing organisations already to help drive discussions.

A wealth of topics were covered in these breakout sessions, from the positive impact that a real-time view of data can have on the running of a production line to the need to strike the right balance with trust and compliance initiatives to secure (but not limit) the use of organisational data.

The differing viewpoints and personal perspectives of the attendees on the CTCs sparked lively debate and provided a truly unique insight into the current mindset of manufacturers and industry policy makers as they embark on their own digital transformation journeys.

CEO of Atos UK and Ireland, Adrian Gregory concluded the event by quoting CBI director general John Cridland.

During a recent address, Cridland stated that manufacturing in the traditional definition accounted for 11% of UK GDP; but if you bring services into how you define manufacturing, that figure leaps dramatically to 19%.

Gregory discussed Atos’ own digital transformation, highlighting four principles which have been embedded in the organisation to aid in the cultural shift.

You can download the full report – Directive on Digital Transformation: Manufacturing for an overview of the discussions that took place along with the key insights generated at the event here, free of charge.

These included not only considering the client, but the client’s customer, being open to collaboration – both internally and externally, having the confidence and courage to try something new or approach problems from new perspectives, and staying current with new technologies, trends and thought leadership.

He challenged attendees to get into the right mindset moving forward, to think of themselves as helping to contribute 19%, not just 11%; and closed by posing the question, what would you do if you truly weren’t afraid?