Is UK manufacturing on-track to miss the fourth industrial revolution (4IR)?

Global manufacturing is on the cusp of change. The fourth industrial revolution is coming to the manufacturing sector, and according to the Manufacturing Organisation EEF, only 11% of manufacturers think the UK manufacturing sector is ready to take advantage of 4IR.


There are those who call it hype or a passing fad. But, as US astronaut Jim Lovell famously said: “There are people who make things happen, there are people who watch things happen, and there are people who wonder what happened. To be successful, you need to be a person who makes things happen.

4IR in a nutshell

Whether you call it 4IR, Industry 4.0, or the Industrial Internet of Things (IIot), the meaning is the same: manufacturers view the core to this as being about data connectivity. Physical networks link with cyber networks together as one system to allow a real-time flow of information. Data is collected, turned into information and insights, and can be acted upon quickly.


The smarter the machines and processes, the better the accurately and consistently of the data captured. Moving data in real time to where it is needed enables organisations to make better decisions faster to improve their manufacturing productivity and their supply chain. The movement of data across the Internet offers benefits to the entire supply chain: improving flexibility from interchanging real-time information with both suppliers and customers.



According to a white paper from EEF/Oracle, there are three core components to this transformation:


1. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) – machines and technologies collecting, sharing and acting on data between themselves

2. Big data – the capture of data on everything and real time analysis of that data by machines and systems

3. Secure and reliable digital infrastructure – a resilient network to link everything up


Data collected can help firms to understand what really is going on, whether that’s how a product is being used or how production processes are performing. Data collection can happen in real time and more importantly can be analysed immediately. Issues or problems can be acted upon quickly, maximising equipment efficiencies, minimising downtime and gaining new data-driven insights to help drive growth strategies and respond to customer demands.


These increased insights will also enable and drive possible new business models, giving the opportunity for higher value activity to derive competitive advantage such as mass customisation, service-enhanced business models, service-oriented business models, factory-less goods producers and the circular economy.


However, 4IR is not without its challenges. The foremost being interoperability between devices and architecture from different suppliers. Machine-to-machine (M2M) communication and automation technologies that have existed in industrial settings for years but no high level of standardisation has been achieved, maybe as it not always seen to be in the interest of automation supplier. This needs to change.


Open the EEF’s 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR): A primer for manufacturers here


Book here to join the EEF online webinar scheduled for 1 March 2017


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