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Industry 4.0 is the future of manufacturing. Through it, our entire sector can reap endless rewards that will ultimately lead to considerable – and sustainable – growth.

However, implementing Industry 4.0 technologies comes with its challenges. Made Smarter is here to help you overcome them and begin your digital transformation journey.

What does ‘Industry 4.0’ really mean? How can you benefit from these digital tools? Should your manufacturing business introduce them? What are the potential challenges involved, and how can dedicated support combat these?

Emerging technologies can be initially quite daunting to implement. By summarising their role in UK manufacturing, we’ll ensure you know what to identify which ones are right for you and how to take advantage of them in your own business.

With the right support, you’ll lead the way (rather than be left behind) when it comes to the digitalisation movement.

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Industry 4.0 explained
  • What is Industry 4.0?

    Industry 4.0 is also known as the fourth industrial revolution and smart manufacturing, as well as IR4.0, I4.0, and I4. It’s a catch-all term for the technologies that empower businesses to collect and analyse data through machines, and automate and streamline their processes. This ultimately leads to a quicker, more flexible and efficient organisation that produces better quality products at a lower cost.

    These digital tools enable manufacturing to become more inclusive, connected and holistic through:

    • Interoperability – All systems can communicate to each other.
    • Decentralisation – The ability to design independent sub-processes with cyber-physical elements, and make decisions autonomously.
    • Real-time analytics – The gathering and analysing of big data so that processes can be effectively monitored, controlled and optimised.
    • Virtualisation – Producing virtual replicas of physical processes and models.
    • Service orientation – Transferring additional value through new or enhanced services.
    • Modularity and scalability – The flexibility to adjust to industry and organisation requirements, as well as scale technical capacity where necessary
  • What are the IR4.0 technologies?

    There are five specific pillars to Industry 4.0:

    • Additive Manufacturing
    • Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Data Analytics
    • Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
    • Robotics and Automation
    • Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
  • How can businesses benefit from digital tools?

    Makers can reap the rewards of I4.0 in numerous ways, including:

    • Improved productivity
    • Better resource management
    • Reduced costs
    • Increased profits
    • Quicker growth
    • Richer, real-time analytics
    • Sustainable competitive advantage
    • Ability to make smarter, faster decisions
    • Optimisation and integration of processes
    • Increased flexibility, allowing for mass production and delivery in response to surges in demand
    • Enhanced communication, enabling businesses to collaborate better internally, as well as with customers
    • Reduced time to market
    • Fewer product defects
    • Reduced need for a large factory (as prototypes can be tested virtually) 
    • Better control over (and understanding of) a business
    • Option to become a more attractive employer (investment in cutting-edge technologies will appeal to those coming into the industry)
    • Ability to address issues before they develop into problems.
  • Why should your manufacturing business adopt emerging technologies?

    There are many reasons why we recommend I4 tools to makers, though they’re particularly suitable if your SME wants to:

    • Be more competitive, and keep pace with others in the industry who are already benefitting from these tools
    • Improve visibility of your supply chain
    • Increase efficiency and profits
    • Inform your entire team of what’s happening in the business
    • Receive support with digital transformation and understanding data
    • Better understand the customer experience
    • Enhance product quality
    • Have a more integrated ERP system
    • Seize real-time insights to make better decisions quicker
  • What can the challenges be?

    A key challenge is ensuring that your whole team embraces the tools. It varies from business to business, but employees can be resistant to change if they’ve been working in the same way for a long time.

    Being extremely transparent in your communications, as well as making your expectations and the reasons for using emerging technologies absolutely clear, will be essential. This may require you to hone your leadership skills in order to give you the confidence and ability to lead the digitalisation journey.

    Another one of the main challenges is introducing and employing the new tools. You’ll need the right resources and team members in place to do so successfully. It might be that you need to hire a digital native to support you, or seek external help – for instance through digital strategy workshops, investment, or guidance on how best to use the technology.

  • How can Made Smarter help?

    The Made Smarter programme was specifically formed to enable those within the UK manufacturing sector to capitalise on Industry 4.0’s benefits. In doing so, they can effectively meet any challenges that come their way, and ultimately grow their businesses and the industry at large.

    Our support includes:

    *This support is currently offered as part of our North West Pilot. However, accelerator programmes across the UK will hopefully be introduced in the future.

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