The Industry 4.0 Outlook for 2021

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The pandemic has certainly led to a tough 2020 for many manufacturing businesses; however, as a result, we’ve noticed some incredible innovations in the industry that we believe are likely to be around for 2021 and beyond.

Processes which were initially designed to limit costs, push efficiency and create predictable scenarios have been turned on their head, which has meant new innovations designed to emphasise flexibility and strength have come to the fore.

In this blog, we’ve put together some of our predictions on where we may see Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing taking us as we move further into 2021.

#1: COVID-19 Adaptations Hand-in-Hand with Emerging Tech

We saw many instances of developing technologies take centre stage due to the evolving COVID situation, and these adaptations will probably become standard in high-level manufacturing during 2021.

Examples of this included the 3D printing which was used to create protective equipment for specialist front line workers, the realignment of skilled machinists and engineers to develop ventilators for the health care system and the adoption of more effective remote communication methods to help engineers guide their customers through a range of maintenance and repair tasks.

The necessities for speedy tech implementation throughout the pandemic has removed the obstacles that would usually stand in the way of adoption, so expect to see further advancements in shorter time frames this year.

#2: Provenance & Data Transparency

Of course, this trend is by no means a new one, but it’s likely to become more critical as we continue into 2021. Trade, labour and sustainability across food, pharmaceutical and clothing manufacturing have become vital elements of consumer opinion.

In 2021, interest around security, safety, localisation and nationalist feeling will possibly extend to other key manufacturing sectors.

In a time of Brexit and COVID, UK manufacturers will need to track materials, data and components to ensure their consumers are getting the very best value.

This means improved data flow management while ensuring that consumers have the information to hand that they demand.

#3: Supply Chain Collaboration

This is a prediction we believe will need to expand considerably in 2021, and much further beyond. Supply chains must become more resilient to head off any surprises, the likes of which we’re seeing with COVID at the moment.

Manufacturers must share data, businesses must invest in smart logistics operations, and there must be an extension of the kind of supplier trust networks that have already been laid out by the Brexit trade deal.

The supply issues we saw during the early days of the COVID pandemic mean that solidity will be more important than ever in 2021. Each stop along the supply chain must learn to share data and create a culture of trust with their customers and suppliers to ensure that we don’t see a continuation of the kinds of delays we saw last year.

#4: Knowledge Worker Investment

AI and automation will continue to play a massive role in the manufacturing sector, which means that those with the knowledge and technical skills will be in very high demand in the coming years.

We believe that leading manufacturers will create transparent manufacturing processes that will invest in digital worker and unstructured content analytics, predictive maintenance, knowledge management, and training programmes to reinforce the understanding around these concepts and how they can develop to further innovate within a manufacturing setting.

As we talked about in this blog in November, there’s a skills shortage when it comes to finding people capable of making these technical leaps a reality, so there’s certainly scope for widespread training in the area in the coming years.

#5: Disaster Recovery Planning

Disaster recovery is, or at least, should be, a vital part of any good business strategy. The drawback to most of these is that they only tend to focus on the short term. COVID-19 scrapped many disaster recovery plans, meaning that long-term resilience and recovery planning will increase in scope.

A significant part of this shift will be how a manufacturing business can pivot to managing a remote setup where necessary. Three UK lockdowns have taught us that things can change very quickly, and businesses must be prepared to accommodate COVID secure practices for as long as is necessary.

For all of these strategies to become a reality, a significant investment in smart manufacturing and networking tech is required.

If you’re interested in upgrading any of your existing equipment, or you’d like to hear more about our services, why not get in touch today?