Report to prime industry for Fourth Industrial Revolution

Posted on 28 Nov 2016 by Jonny Williamson

EEF has today published a new report designed to prepare UK manufacturers on the practicalities of the fast-approaching fourth industrial revolution.

Stock Image Industry 4.0 Fourth Industrial Revolution Automation Robot TechnologyThe report aims to break the concept of the fourth industrial revolution down into digestible chunks and help manufacturers make the connection between theory and practice. It uses real-life manufacturing case studies to enable them to then envisage how advanced technologies and techniques could work in their own business.

The move follows a series of focus groups with manufacturers across the UK and research showing that just four in ten (42%) have a good handle on this paradigm shift affecting manufacturing the world over. At the same time, manufacturers are aware that the fourth industrial revolution will lead to crucial transformation, both at a business and industry level.

More than six in ten manufacturers (61%) say digital technologies will boost productivity, while three quarters (74%) say that the fourth industrial revolution will fundamentally change customers’ expectations. This in turn will require firms to change and adapt in order to meet marketplace needs.

Almost seven in ten (68%) manufacturers say that this revolution will happen faster than previous changes in manufacturing. And while most are seemingly confident about managing the pace of change, almost four in ten (39%) are concerned about their firms’ ability to keep up.

The report outlines that the fourth industrial revolution will herald smarter production, relationships and products and will boost the number of high-skilled jobs in the UK. But, it warns that the speed of change will be unprecedented, leaving little room for complacency. Without industry and supply chain leadership, coupled with a supportive industrial strategy, the UK risks being left behind.

The report – The Fourth Industrial Revolution: a primer for manufacturers – can be downloaded here.

The report identifies a need for greater communication across supply chains and industrial sectors about the benefits. And, while this transformative journey may start with optimising existing business processes, there are steps beyond technology that manufacturers need to take to prepare their business.

These include applying visionary thinking, changing the internal culture towards innovation and boosting the role of IT and technology in decision-making.

The report is part of EEF’s wider drive to get UK manufacturers ready for the future, which involves providing firms with support and information along with practical tips and case studies of how other manufacturers are adapting to the new industrial age.

Lee Hopley, chief economist, EEF.
Lee Hopley, chief economist, EEF.

Chief economist at EEF, Lee Hopley explained: “The fourth industrial revolution is happening and the UK’s success in this global industrial transformation will hinge on manufacturers’ strategies and ambitions.

“It goes far beyond simply investing in new technologies and techniques – this new era requires cultural shifts, new business models and the ability to adapt and innovate.

“This report is about sharing this insight with manufacturers but, more importantly, also providing practical examples so that the fourth industrial revolution stops being about theory and starts being about something that manufacturers can genuinely see how and why to apply.

“By helping to connect principle to practice, we aim to put our sector in the driving seat, building confidence and awareness so that UK manufacturers can be at the forefront of this new industrial wave.”