UK manufacturers are on a 4IR journey

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Today EEF together with our partners Oracle published a new report – The 4th Industrial Revolution: A Primer For Manufacturers. The report is aimed at manufacturers and stakeholders who are keen to move on from theory to practical 4IR implementation on the factory and mezzanine floors.

It builds on our 4IR fact card which we published in early August and provides answers to four key questions which have surfaced over the course of EEF’s work. These questions are:

  1. Is 4IR hype? Or do manufacturers need to take this seriously?

  2. Is the UK manufacturing sector geared up for this? Does the UK have the business environment to support it?

  3. What practical examples are there of 4IR ‘technologies and techniques’?

  4. What else do manufacturers need to do?

4IR is a thing

Manufacturers say 4IR is about data driven production. Gaining insights to help deliver greater value to customers, improve productivity and remain competitive. But what does that mean in practice?

4IR-about-getting-actionable-insights-from-data 

Here’s an example:

Many people in their daily lives use wearables, smartphones, apps and other connected devices to track things like step count, pulse, mood and calorie consumption to trace among other things, weight loss or gain.

This data collected over time starts to build up a rich picture of the small things that we do on a day to day basis that impacts on bigger outcomes like getting fitter and healthier.

By mining this data users can start to comprehend what can be altered to improve our ability to meet targeted outcomes, make hypotheses and apply them in the real world.

 

In short, we’ve created a digital twin based on the captured data. With this twin we can discover insights we otherwise would never have spotted, providing hard data to guide decisions on strategy.

A manufacturing digital twin

Now imagine applying that same concept of a digital twin to a factory setting. All processes, supply chain relationships and products can be made smarter by capturing data, gaining insights, running virtual scenarios and applying these in the real world.

4IRisaboutconnectivity 

In the process we’ve sped up innovation, unlocked new ways of optimising production and found ways to answer questions more quickly.

 

in-mfgs-own-words---what-is-4IR 

Now not all manufacturers going from the 3rd to the 4th industrial revolution will adopt all of this in one go. Our engagement flags that manufacturers are on a journey and it is a journey of three parts.

The-4IR-journey 

So there is an opportunity to adopt a 4IR approach outcome by outcome. Our report gives some examples of how manufacturers are doing that to evolve their current business processes.

Beyond technology

But the first step doesn’t have to be about technology. There are things we know manufacturers should be doing now to foster the right culture for eventual technology investment.

To some extent this is even more important than the actual technology investment. Tomorrow we’ll be blogging on what these are, but you can take an early peek in the report.

Government support for this will also be important and on Wednesday we’ll outline some steps that they can take in the forthcoming industrial strategy to ensure the 4th industrial revolution is anchored here in the UK.

Author

Head of Business Environment Policy

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