How can we make sure UK manufacturers benefit from industry 4.0?

Bringing together emerging technologies like robotics, AI, 3-D printing and data automation can potentially have a huge impact for the UK manufacturing industry.

Connected in digital ecosystems they have the chance to revolutionise both supply chain and processes, as well as create a factory of the future.

But adoption isn’t without its pitfalls. Here we look at what can be done to ensure UK manufacturing businesses enjoy the benefits of industry 4.0.


What is the potential benefit?  

The first place to start is with how the fourth industrial revolution can truly boost the money generated by UK manufacturing.

Steve Brambley, Deputy Director of Gambica, stated in 2015 if we invested as much in industry 4.0 as our German counterparts for example UK manufacturers could boost their revenues by £20billion. That’s a huge boon to individual businesses and the economy.

The theory is there, but with new technology comes new challenges for traditional manufacturing businesses.

Breaching the knowledge gap – it’s more than a concept

Most UK manufacturers are aware of the need to adopt the technologies promised by industry 4.0. However, many are less sure of how it will impact their individual business and how they should adopt a strategy to make the most of it.

For many it still seems like just a concept. Specifically, 25% of UK businesses feel the manufacturing industry is unprepared for the change that’s to come.

So, how do we get prepared and make sure it’s a smooth transition?

To ensure UK businesses can adopt new technologies into the supply chain, and that they have the help to improve research and development, the UK government will need to step up and provide the requisite support.

Specifically, in two areas:

  •       Education

  •       Strategy

Having the right skill set in place

Automation and robotics in the manufacturing industry have long been identified as the beginning of the end of the UK workforce.

It’s actually the other way. With increased tech, comes an increased need for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) talent. However, currently there is a growing gap between supply and demand.

This is where government assistances must come. Manufacturers will need to collaborate with government to identify the talent required and ensure that the education system works hard to deliver the skills needed. This is particularly important in a post-Brexit Britain.

A long term (industry focussed) industrial strategy from the Government

As we’ve already touched on, government assistance can be very powerful with assisting specific industries on growing in line with their European and international counterparts.

The UK government has had success with this in the aerospace sector for example. However, would it be the right move to focus on one specific industry. Those that are chosen would be done so due to UK government policies. However, that may not be the best move for the businesses themselves.

Many businesses are in fact hoping for policies that can be applied across several industries. This could include R&D, and a boost to workforce skills for example. Boosting skill-sets and knowledge across a number of industries would surely be the best solution for all concerned, not just manufacturers.

At J B Cole, we’re working with several businesses in the manufacturing industry to ensure the right tech is adopted for the needs of the company.

You can learn more about our client approach and results through our case studies, as well as our work in the manufacturing industry at one of our upcoming events.