Industry 4.0: Why smaller businesses need to digitize

Being the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, the UK is no stranger to industrial changes. With the start of Industry 4.0, the question lies in whether the U.K is prepared in leading this modern revolution as well. 

Industrial digitization could be worth as much as £455 billion to the U.K’s manufacturing sector over the next decade. The U.K government has implemented schemes to increase digital capabilities across the U.K. economy in the modern Industrial Strategy. Artificial Intelligence (AI) was one of the highlights where the government believes the U.K can be a world leader. 

The British government has already invested £147 million (€159 million) into the second round of “Manufacturing Made Smarter,” a scheme presented in September 2020 that will promote innovation within the UK’s manufacturing industry. In the first round, British government invested £100 million (€108 million) worth of funding into 34 projects. 

If you want a background on how technology has impacted the manufacturing sector in the U.K so far, check out Chris Roberts articles on 5G and covid impacting innovation. Oliver Hoade also wrote on additive manufacturing in the U.K. 

In a nut shell, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) uses IT (Information Technology) and OT (Operational Technology), to create a cyber-physical environment. 

Some technology used in Industry 4.0 are : 

  • Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) 
  • Big Data 
  • Cloud computing 
  • Additive manufacturing (AM) 
  • Advanced robotics  
  • Artificial Intelligence  
  • Augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR)

So with the government investing so much in this new concept, what are the statistics? 

MAKEUK published a report in 2020 that provided the following insights in UK manufacturing so far: only 28% have adopted additive manufacturing, 22% in robotics, 12% in IIOTs, 7% in AR/AV, and 5% in AI and machine learning. 

Although these numbers seem low, U.K. companies are progressing up the scale with only 11% of companies at the first stage of pre-conception compared to 30% in 2018.  

Initial progress has been made but barriers still remain. There is a lack of awareness and knowledge of the government schemes available to the manufacturing industry. Of the 11 schemes surveyed, more than 50% of manufacturers were only aware of three of them: R&D Tax Credits, Investment allowances and Knowledge Transfer partnerships. Grants are available but half the manufacturers are not taking advantage.  

The U.K has a long way to go before becoming a leader in the world stage. While in the top ten list of manufacturers around the world, the U.K lags  behind countries like China and the United States of America.  

A great way the government can help the UK rise to the top is to invest heavily into smaller manufacturing companies, such as family-owned business. The larger U.K manufacturing businesses will reinvest into their own technology to make them more competitive both domestically and internationally. It is the smaller companies that will need the most focus. 

Smaller companies need to be more aware of the schemes that are put in place that can help make them improve in the new Industry 4.0 world. If you are a smaller manufacturing company, MAKEUK has a list of schemes available for companies to take advantage of the situation they are in now. 

As Chris Roberts said in a previous blog post about this subject, “technology and data are becoming ever more important to business’ futures and valuations.” It is important to know when to invest in your business with better technology, or find others who will. Over the years, Polestar has worked with manufacturers as they move into the next digital stage; both through fund raising for investment and making introductions. We would love to hear your plans.

Technology and data are becoming ever more important to business’ futures and valuations

By Anusheh Khan on 29/03/2021