Industry 4.0 is changing the world of manufacturing, but what – if anything – does it mean for the UK’s SME heartland?
It is – we’re frequently told – the grand concept that’s going to usher in the next industrial revolution, change forever the way that we make things, and shape the world’s balance of industrial power in the decades to come. But what exactly is Industry 4.0?
Despite everyone – from politicians to captains of industry – trumpeting its transformative power for the last few years, it’s not often that you come across a coherent definition of the concept. And when you do, it often differs from someone else’s coherent definition.
Nevertheless, the technologies at the heart of the Industry 4.0 concept are already having an impact. Across Europe – and particularly in Germany – large manufacturers are increasingly exploiting the benefits of smart sensing systems, and advanced connectivity to introduce new levels of flexibility, speed and reliability into their production processes.
Things are moving fast. So far, mainland Europe, and specifically Germany, leads the way. Although China which recently unveiled a bold ten-year industrial plan is catching up. And there’s a genuine concern that the UK could get left behind.
So what do we need to do to ensure that we stay in the race?
Whilst large multinationals frequently have the money and the structure to implement grand visions, Industry 4.0 won’t be truly transformative unless the whole of industry gets on board. The challenge in the UK is ensuring that the whole of industry is on-board – and this includes the many thousands of smaller engineering firms and manufacturers that form a huge chunk of Britain’s industrial landscape.
In an effort to shed some light on these issues and explore what the concept might really mean for the UK’s SMEs The Engineer has convened a special roundtable debate towards the end of next month.
Drawing on the thoughts of experts from throughout industry we hope to arrive at our own coherent definition of Industry 4.0, and explore what it means in practice for the UK’s manufacturers.
So if you work in UK manufacturing and you’re puzzled by Industry 4.0, want to know how your organisation can extract value from the technology or simply can’t see what the concept might mean for your firm, we’d love to hear from you. We’ll then put the most incisive and thought provoking of your questions, comments and misgivings to our expert panel and publish the answers here in The Engineer.
You can also learn more about Industry 4.0 – alongside 3D printing, Britain’s biggest ever warship, the Rosetta mission, and much, much more at The Engineer Conference, which kicks off at the NEC, Birmingham in just under two weeks time.