I n manufacturing technology, there is a current trend in data exchange and automation called Industry 4.0 (pronounced four point zero). It mainly comprises the internet of things, cognitive computing, cyber-physical systems, and cloud computing. Industry 4.0 is also called the fourth industrial revolution. Industry 4.0 is about digitisation that brings the physical and virtual worlds closer together. This ensures that each learns from one another. Although Industry 4.0 has set out to transform how companies approach business, the UK is lagging in this. As a result, it has a hurdle to climb to keep up with other European countries and other international countries.
For many years, industrial processes and jobs have been impacted by technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, the internet of things, Nano-technology and automation. Industry 4.0 is setting the standard for the next step. We now have smart machines able to “communicate” with one another and adjust themselves to their working environments. The characteristics of smart machines have been raising concerns about them replacing people in industry. However, this is what is required, as the UK must regain its competitiveness in the industrial world. As a result, people can be trained and redeployed in other business areas to help growth as businesses become more competitive.
The UK manufacturing sector has faced many
Looking at a recent PwC report, we can see how British industry continues to have a freefall among its European rivals. From the information, it was noted that the German industry plans to invest 3.3% of its gross revenue in Industry 4.0 for the next five years, successively, where it is estimated that this will result in 12.5% growth. It is a known fact that the size of the German manufacturing industry is four times the size of the UK manufacturing industry. Yet, their investments in automation are seven times more than British investments in automation. To keep this in check, the next technological move by the UK must be given thorough attention.
Some sectors have already benefited from Industry 4.0 initiatives, such as Vauxhall Motors, which has invested heavily in 3D printing. This helped them increase productivity and minimise the time in getting their product to market. For the manufacturing sector, using these technologies will make them more independent in their production. In turn, this will create flexibility in business systems, localised manufacturing, better product customisation and shorter lead times. These features will help the industry compete globally and provide its customers with more personalised or bespoke products.
Construction also sees higher efficiency and safety rates from using technologies like automation and building information modelling. The buildings are now perceived as digital assets and not just physical assets with the latter. The building structures are studied, scrutinised, and visualised. This process improves the accuracy and design and highlights structural hazards. This assists designers in mapping out safety plans to be used by the construction workers.
For both the manufacturing and construction sectors, business software supports automation. Supporting organisations to make effective and better decisions in areas of their businesses, such as finance, supply chain and planning.
UK industry needs to engage with its employees, ensuring that they have the required skills to enjoy all these benefits. Businesses will have to engage more with schools, colleges and universities in the construction and manufacturing sectors. This will ensure that the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills are focused on what will be required in the daily world of their students.
Finally, as industry 4.0 becomes more prevalent in UK sectors, the use of automation will change and elevate work. The UK must learn from its European rivals’ early adoption of this phenomenon, who are becoming more industrially advanced. The UK must become technically focused on helping the continued revival of these sometimes forgotten but vital sectors in the long run.