Automation in manufacturing is not new. It has been in common use since the 1970s, a period now referred to as Industry 3.0. This phase in the history of manufacturing consisted largely of early computer control systems and robotics. As we entered the digital age, it was the inevitable progression to increase the efficiency of the mass production assembly line.
Welcome to Industry 4.0
The rapid technological advances of the last decade are changing manufacturing processes in fundamental ways. Whether you’re an Amazon fulfilment center or a food manufacturer in Lincolnshire, today’s technology is more cost effective and accessible than ever before.
While a common misconception about automation is that it costs jobs, a government review showed there would be a net gain of 175,000 highly skilled jobs if Britain embraces Industry 4.0 over the next decade. The increase in efficiency to the businesses that adopt the new technology is estimated to equal £455 billion.
A broader scope
Manufacturing automation no longer involves just a preprogrammed robot performing a repetitive task. Industrial digitization is now always connected, providing real-time information on processes. As well as being part of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), many newer systems are also backed by intelligent AI that allows them to perform tasks that are more advanced. These AI platforms also allow them to share invaluable lessons and collaborate with coworkers.
Are you ready?
Manufacturing companies that have already embraced the benefits of digital technologies and automation are already taking advantage of greatly reduced timescales, increased efficiency, and increased cost-effectiveness.
While most people already realise this is the future of manufacturing, there still seems to be many companies reluctant to adopt new technologies. Businesses that fail to transition in line with industry 4.0 will run the risk of becoming less competitive. Not taking advantage of the cost and time savings on offer could leave British manufacturing a decade behind competitors.
Being ready for Industry 4.0 has little to do with your setup, it’s more about your company’s attitude towards investing in the future. To retain our status amongst the global manufacturing community, and ensure we remain competitive at home and abroad, we must invest in the future of our industries. What that entails is different for every company, from increasing R&D budgets to employing more STEM graduates to develop fresh talent with new approaches.
This isn’t something for the future
Now is the time to educate yourself regarding Industry 4.0. It’s not a conceptual manufacturing utopia we expect to see in 50-years. It’s happening right now in every industry. The UK has always been at the forefront of manufacturing innovation, largely due to the excellent pool of talent we have always produced. The immediate challenges are shifting. Now it’s a question of whether you will be able to deliver the quality of components at a volume and speed far beyond anything you’ve ever produced.
If you’re not already moving towards Industry 4.0 then you’re in danger of being left behind, because there is a very good chance at least one of your competitors is.