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The manufacturing industry is currently bracing itself for the ‘Industry 4.0’ revolution. Manufacturers are starting to evolve by increasing the usage of innovative solutions and technologies within their businesses.
Industry 4.0 was simply defined by PWC as: “The fourth industrial revolution. Industry 4.0 focuses on the end-to-end digitisation of all physical assets and integration into digital ecosystems with value chain partners. Generating, analysing and communicating data seamlessly underpins the gains promised by Industry 4.0, which networks a wide range of new technologies to create value.”
There is no sector in the world that is exempt from the digitisation of work. The greatest transformational example is the media, as ‘newspapers’ such as the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail are now labelled as media groups. ‘Web 4.0’ saw the media respond by creating SEO, digital footprints and personalisation as attention spans continued to decline.
According to a recent PWC survey, manufacturing executives remain unsure of the significant financial investment required and the economic benefits that will follow. Many people believe they lack a vision of how digital operations could transform their companies, and worry that they won’t be able to find the talent needed to proceed or to put in place the necessary digitally oriented culture.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates once said: “Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven. I don’t think anybody can talk meaningfully about one without the talking about the other.”
Technology within manufacturing brings a variety of changes to business, which itself brings a sense of reluctancy and procrastination. For example; The operating model, business processes and mechanisms will need to be changed to accommodate the full potential of the new, optimisation technologies.
The manufacturing sector is also faced with the looming skills-gap that continues to increase year by year. The sector faces two brutal statistics via the BBC: “The average age of an engineer in Britain is 54 and only 6% of students in the UK are studying engineering or technology.”
According to Forbes, for a factory or system to be considered Industry 4.0, it must include:
- Interoperability — machines, devices, sensors and people that connect and communicate with one another.
- Information transparency — the systems create a virtual copy of the physical world through sensor data in order to contextualize information.
- Technical assistance — both the ability of the systems to support humans in making decisions and solving problems and the ability to assist humans with tasks that are too difficult or unsafe for humans.
- Decentralised decision-making — the ability of cyber-physical systems to make simple decisions on their own and become as autonomous as possible.
Industry 4.0 will be impossible to face for a portion of leaders, due to a perceived stubbornness in respecting the traditions of local areas, where people gave their lives in building and regenerating the area and economy.
However, the machines have computer control capabilities, where the supply chain can have access to every stage of a manufacturing and delivery process. The automation of a machine means they are capable of working 24/7, which may lead businesses to increase revenues, market share and profits.
Industry 4.0 is not a futuristic concept anymore, there are a range of companies already solely dedicated to robotics who are supplying their machines across the manufacturing supply chain.
Evolution shows that the manufacturers who take the plunge into investing into new technologies and innovations will more than likely be rewarded with progress, whereas those fearful of change are risking the prospect of starting when it is too late.