Realise your potential with 4IR

Posted on 13 Nov 2017 by The Manufacturer

Steven Barr of The Manufacturer’s networked expert advisory service – Hennik Edge looks forward to the Digital Manufacturing Show and highlights ways you can get on with 4IR, during and after the event.

4IR is best thought of as an ever-growing and evolving set of systems, equipment, software and know-how.
4IR is best thought of as an ever-growing and evolving set of systems, equipment, software and know-how.

You may be reading this as a delegate, speaker or exhibitor at The Digital Manufacturing Show in Liverpool on 15-16 November. If so – hello and welcome to the biggest event of its kind in the country.

The Leaders Conference will present thought-provoking ideas and practical examples from inspiring speakers. Smart Factory Expo will showcase amazing technologies and business concepts. You’ll be among thousands of manufacturing leaders and enablers, all eager to learn how to ‘realise your potential with 4IR’.

The concept of 4IR (Fourth Industrial Revolution, Industry 4.0 or industrial digitalisation, according to taste) seems to have been around – well, since the previous industrial revolution. The range of technologies is increasing all the time as digital companies bring expertise in other fields, such as gaming and app development to bear in manufacturing.

4IR is best thought of as an ever-growing and evolving set of systems, equipment, software and know-how. Perhaps that’s why we often feel we are ‘drinking from the fire hose’, there’s just so much.

This article first appeared in the November issue of The Manufacturer magazine. To subscribe, please click here.

Recent research by KPMG has shown that most manufacturers are buying in to some form of 4IR technology, but not at scale and not at pace. It seems that all sizes of companies are cherry-picking 4IR kit based on tactical needs and rapid return on investment. More strategic investment is rarer.

As a result, many manufacturers and the UK economy as a whole, are in danger of missing out on step-change improvements in innovation, productivity and competitiveness. Hence the focus in the Digital Manufacturing Show on ‘realising your potential with 4IR’. The Show will help us be more aware of the scope of 4IR, but what else is meant by that phrase?

Show me the way to the future

First, manufacturers need to see the way through the theory of what 4IR can do to the reality of 4IR transformation in the workings of the business – its finances, operations, people and business relationships.

A bridge has to be built from the old ways to the new – but thankfully not all at once. Strategy defines the landing point and any intermediate positions or holding points, not just for 4IR, but for every aspect of business growth. Without a well-founded strategy, any investment is a roll of the dice.

Hennik Edge Business Strategy 4IR Technologies


In these uncertain times (not least Brexit, and more specifically how government will support a manufacturing renaissance), manufacturers may be right to think about building the platform of their 4IR transformation in affordable steps.

Get your ERP system working first so you can control and measure performance. Then automate for targeted efficiency improvements. Then add cloud-based data exchange with suppliers and customers to maximise responsiveness. Or some such pathway.

Again, we need to hear from manufacturers what sequence of steps worked for them, and why. The Manufacturer is helping the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with its ‘Digital Meets Manufacturing’ programme.

We will be sharing 4IR case studies and engaging small- and medium-sized manufacturers with digital companies. These specialists are customer-focused and agile app developers, programmers and technologists.

Because they don’t own the whole platform they are adept at using application programming interfaces (APIs) to connect the steps, ensuring that progress on the journey does not outstrip cash flow.

Show me the money

Second, manufacturers need to see the real money on the bottom line, and direct cause-and-effect from 4IR. Detailed case studies are surprisingly rare, and we need to work on that. I’ve recently seen robotic equipment being used to overcome a skills shortage and raise productivity to satisfy a new customer order.

ERP and supply chain management systems now enable the end-to-end operational responsiveness that large customers now expect as standard. We need the many manufacturers who have made a return on investment in 4IR to share their experience and inspire peers.

The Leaders Conference and Smart Factory Expo will provide ample opportunities to deepen enquiries into the technologies of 4IR and start to realise their potential. Here’s my pick of the action and suggestions to start your 4IR bridge-building at the Show and back in the real world:

  1. Learn to realise 4IR from your peers’ experience

In last month’s issue of The Manufacturer I discussed how to unleash the power of your extended network to achieve excellence, in whatever way you define excellence for your business.

It won’t have escaped your notice that you are surrounded by experts at The Digital Manufacturing Show – so seize the opportunities:

  • Be bold and use the Show guide (on the reverse of this magazine) to target people and organisations you want to talk to
  • Join in the discussion in your choice of five themed workshop sessions in the Leaders Conference and four Solutions Theatres
  • Visit Innovation Alley to be immersed in new technologies
  • Get answers from engineering experts at Hack and Pitch
  • See 4IR in action on our Factory Tours.

Hennik Edge will be leading the Strategy Forum stream, focusing on strategic planning in aspects of business where 4IR has a big impact. After the Show, you can continue your 4IR journey by tapping into the Hennik Edge expert network, in the real world and on the secure, private environment of The Manufacturer Collaboratory. See us on our stand in Smart Factory Expo or contact us using the details below.

  1. Learn to realise 4IR from your data and personal insight

Hennik Edge’s team of experienced professionals is on hand to offer free one-to-one coaching sessions for manufacturing leaders throughout the Show. You can sign up at our stand.

The new Digital Readiness Level (DRL) tool being co-developed by The Manufacturer and partners aims to make it even clearer where investment in 4IR would make a difference. DRL diagnoses gaps to be addressed, benchmarking digital best practice across the full scope of manufacturing business interests:

  • Technical capability – systems, manufacturing technology, market integration and processes
  • Value creation – skills, workforce, operations and market
  • Leadership – culture and vision.

We’ll be demonstrating the prototype DRL tool on the Hennik Edge stand, and soon it will be available on (Our DRL development partners are HSSMI, The Digital Engineering Test Centre, Digital Catapult, High Value Manufacturing Catapult, Knowledge Transfer Network, The Institute of Engineering and Technology, GAMBICA, LCR4.0 and others.)

I hope you enjoy the buzz of The Digital Manufacturing Show. Above all I hope you will benefit from the expertise at the Show, and contribute your own. Whether you make it to the Show or not, take heart that you can realise the benefits of 4IR for your business, making a reality of 4IR transformation and getting your hands on the real money.

Contact Hennik Edge:
[email protected]
020 7401 6033