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The 2017 Made Smarter UK review stated that “the positive impact of faster innovation and adoption of Industrial Digital Technologies (IDTs) could be as much as £455 billion for UK manufacturing over the next decade, increasing manufacturing sector growth between 1.5 and 3 percent per annum, creating a conservative estimated net gain of 175,000 jobs throughout the economy.

These IDTs that Professor Juergen Maier refers to in the Made Smarter review are instrumental to the future success of the UK manufacturing sector and form the backbone of the Government’s plans to revamp the sector.                                                               

As outlined in the Made Smarter review, IDTs offer the promise of recapturing the UK’s industrial spirit as a nation of ‘creators and makers’ through

  • Raising UK productivity and international competitiveness;
  • Creating new, higher-paid, higher-skilled jobs that add value to society and positively offset the displacement of poor productivity and poorly paid jobs;
  • Strengthening UK supply chains and creating new value streams;
  • Addressing regional economic disparities;
  • Increasing exports through competitiveness;
  • Creating a new vibrant technology market serving UK industry and attracting Foreign Direct Investment
  • Improving the resource efficiency of the UK’s industrial base, making it more resilient to global resource supply disruptions and reducing its environmental impact through more efficient manufacturing and industrial processes and more optimised supply chains.
The IDTs that provide these opportunities are:
  • Data Analytics, Artificial intelligence and Machine learning

    Data analysis is a key digital technology and as an emerging data analytical method, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are growing rapidly. AI/ML can give objects autonomy by enabling them to learn from past experiences. These technologies have a wide range of applications within manufacturing, including machine maintenance and improved accuracy in demand forecasting.

  • Additive Manufacturing

    Additive manufacturing has gained wide applications in many industrial manufacturing processes. Different from the traditional machining processes, additive manufacturing builds up components in a layer-by-layer fashion. Additive manufacturing enables more complex design innovation, shorter time to market and lower tooling cost. Moreover, parts that are designed for additive manufacturing are both lighter and less costly compared to parts manufactured by traditional manufacturing methods.

  • Blockchain

    Blockchain is a decentralised and distributed group of blocks chained together using cryptography. They are considered secure by design and even though they are typically linked with cryptocurrency, they are highly relevant to manufacturing. They can be used to protect and proof IP ownership and provide traceability for data sharing between organisations.

  • Industrial Internet of Things and connectivity

    Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) integrates and gathers data from connected devices, such as manufacturing equipment and tools, and sensors, enabling faster decision making for industrial companies. To realise the IIoT, next generation internet technologies are required. 5G and LPWAN have higher reliability compared to current internet technologies and will increase connectivity. Those technologies will lead to reduced cost for manufacturing SMEs and more reliability.

  • Robotics and Automation

    As a key automation technology, robotics is now the core technology for developing smart and flexible manufacturing capabilities in smart manufacturing. Integrating with advanced sensors, high speed networks, and big-data technologies, robotics are gaining unprecedented autonomy and flexibility. With recent advances in robotics, they are more affordable, easier to programme and can work along skilled labour.

  • Immersive Technologies

    Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are a form of data processing and presentation technologies. VR and AR can be applied in various scenarios in manufacturing, such as providing remote expert support, validating manufacturing processes and prototyping manufacturing processes.

  • Sensors

    Sensors play an important role in gathering data for data processing technologies to provide deeper insights into processes. Sensors can be used in manufacturing processes to gather real-time data to detect defects, monitor machinery and the manufacturing process itself as well as to enable traceability on the shopfloor.

  • Further reading

    Each of these digital technologies provide a wealth of opportunity for manufacturers.  KTN’s Made Smarter Innovation Network webinar series ‘Making Manufacturing Smarter’ explores each of these areas in depth and provides examples of businesses that have been successful in innovating and adopting technologies across these IDT areas.   Find out more and register here.

    Our next Making Manufacturing Smarter article will explore innovation in industrial robotics and automation where there is lots of innovation taking place. The recent Robotics and Automation Showcase - #RAI21 - highlighted advances in robotics and the AI that drives it, whilst highlighting the role of these technologies in driving recovery post-COVID and beyond. You can watch the videos from RAI21 here.

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