‘4IR won’t have negative impact on employment levels’

The increased use of 4IR technologies within UK factories will not have a significant impact on overall employment levels in the manufacturing sector, according to a new study.

Employment levels within the manufacturing sector will increase by 0.8% between now and 2021 as a result of the increased utilisation of 4IR technology – image courtesy of irwinmitchell

The ‘Go Fourth’ report by law firm Irwin Mitchell and the Centre for Economic & Business Research (Cebr), examines the latest trends and impact on the manufacturing sector of new 4IR technologies.

These technologies, often referred to as the fourth wave of the Industrial Revolution, create ‘Smart Factories’ which offer many benefits including higher productivity, increased speed of production and improved product quality.

A common fear associated with 4IR is a loss of jobs it could cause, but according to the study, employment levels within the manufacturing sector will increase by 0.8% between now and 2021 as a result of the increased utilisation of Industry 4.0 technology.

However, it says that certain occupations will be hit harder and the impact of this will be felt to a greater extent in some areas of the UK.

The report forecasts that in the next four years, lower skill professions and administrative jobs will fall, whilst there will be a 12% increase in managers, directors and senior officials and a 7% rise for professional occupations.

The report reveals that manufacturers in the East Midlands, Northern Ireland and Yorkshire employ the highest percentage of at-risk occupation groups, while London and the South East employ the least.

In the South East, for example, only 5% of jobs are elementary occupations, for which employment is expected to decline by 10% by 2021, while the figure for Yorkshire and Humberside is 11%.

In the East Midlands, 23% of jobs are process, plant and machine operatives, but in London only 9% of manufacturing workers are employed in this area.

These regional results suggest 4IR will generate a change in the distribution of manufacturing jobs within the country.

Aggregate employment is not forecast to change significantly, and the job creation will occur in areas with more employment of managers and professional occupations, of which there are a higher proportion in London and the South East.

Key findings from the report are:

  • Only one-in-three manufacturing companies classified themselves as being familiar with the term ‘IR4.0’ (a.k.a. 4IR or Industry 4.0)
  • ‘3D printing’ and ‘data’ are among those terms, manufacturers are most familiar with.
  • Only 14% of manufacturers have invested in big data and/ or cloud solutions while 12% invested in 3D printing technologies.
  • One-in-three firms believe that their business is too small to capitalise upon the benefits of Industry 4.0.
  • Over one third of companies believe that Industry 4.0 technologies will have a positive impact on overall productivity. Only 2% of manufacturers expect a negative impact on productivity.