We believe the next level of British manufacturing productivity must be based on highly agile, networked enterprises that use information as skilfully as they deploy machinery and employ talent. It’s time for UK manufacturers to use technology to their advantage when it comes to improving productivity. While German manufacturers are rapidly adopting the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0, a survey of UK manufacturers found that 40% don’t even know what Industry 4.0 is. Part of this discrepancy can be put down to the German manufacturing sector committing €40bn per annum up to 2020 into Smart Factories and the German government’s own £280 million investment in the adoption of Industry 4.0 enabling technologies. This is all based on its whole-hearted belief that it will add 3% in annual GDP to their economy.
In a recent international survey of manufacturers by Infor, 52% cited productivity as being the biggest potential benefit from deploying Industry 4.0. This was closely followed by machine utilisation, supply chain visibility and the creation of new revenue streams.
It’s time for UK manufacturers to adopt the principle that better data means better decisions into their own products and processes and unlock the productivity benefits that Industry 4.0 can deliver.
Advanced problem solving
Technology also has a role to play in identifying productivity drains on the production floor before they happen. With smart sensors on machinery, problems – or upcoming problems – can be quickly uncovered and a repair chain of events instigated automatically. It’s about minimising machine down time and effective asset management, which are key to productivity. Industry 4.0 creates the opportunity for factories to become predictive and proactive, rather than reactive where problems are addressed too late.
Information as a revenue stream
The information gathered from products is potentially as valuable as the product themselves. UK manufacturers should take note and look for opportunities to install sensors and other data capture mechanisms in their products.
For example, the German auto industry is planning to more than double the number of sensors in a typical new car to 200 by 2020. Instead of just monitoring oil levels and tyre pressure, these sensors can monitor the health of the driver, the environment, and provide this information to service partners. Information can then be fed back to the driver, maybe offering fuel deals at nearby petrol stations, or offers at restaurants suited to the time of day and occupants of the car. Within the next four years, car manufacturers expect to earn double the amount of money from offering this data opportunity to service partners than they will from actually selling the car.
To hear more about technology’s potential for boosting productivity, attend the EEF National Manufacturing Conference in London on 24 February 2016.