Industry 4.0 promises to redefine the way that businesses of all sizes operate, regardless of their size or sector. The biggest firms in several industries have already been able to capitalise on the fundamental technologies of which this coming industrial revolution will consist.
As dynamic and tech-savvy start-ups flood the market in almost every sector, businesses must understand the benefit of embracing Industry 4.0 in order to remain competitive and harness the plentiful opportunities that it will offer.
The technologies that define Industry 4.0 are both pervasive and ubiquitous enough that they will inevitably change the way that all manner of businesses operate. The foundational pillars of Industry 4.0 include increasing utilisation of interoperable devices, and the cyber-physical systems that allow such machinery to make autonomous decisions.
Essentially, these technologies allow processes to occur with diminished need for manual involvement, driving up efficiencies and helping solve complex business problems. Used alongside various other disruptive technologies, including 3-D printing, cognitive computing and the Internet of Things (IoT), these developments have come to define the forthcoming industrial revolution.
As has historically been the case with industrial revolutions, the manufacturing industry has been a driving force in implementing change. The concept of the ‘smart factory’ has been well-documented and has recently become a reality with some of the largest players in the industry making substantial steps towards full operation.
Manufacturing giants in Germany, where the term Industry 4.0 was first coined, have made particularly successful use of these technologies. International outsourcing of manufacturing processes has slowed because the efficiencies offered by these disruptive technologies have made domestic production equally competitive.
Although the British manufacturing industry currently stands as the eighth largest in the world, it’s export rates have diminished drastically over the last 50 years. Competitive pricing from other areas of the globe, particularly in the Far East, have led to a sizeable decline in the size of the sector.
Industry 4.0 offers British business the opportunity to seize on an enormous drive in efficiency and to reposition themselves competitively in the global manufacturing market.
It is the prospect of increased competition that should motivate UK businesses to prepare themselves for Industry 4.0. With innovative technologies increasingly readily available, new businesses are seizing the opportunity to capitalise on fledgling markets. All manner of industries are seeing a rise in start-ups and disrupters entering the market are offering an innovative approach by use of newest technologies.
In order to remain competitive, existing businesses must be willing to embrace technological advancements. Such developments are not limited to those within the manufacturing industry. Many businesses already have access to enormous data sets, whether it be on the functionality of their machinery, the efficacy of their workers or the behaviours of their customers. The thing that will set apart the successful businesses in the context of Industry 4.0 is their ability to harness this data effectively.
Using sophisticated sensors and related software systems, businesses are granted genuine insight into their day-to-day operations which they can use to inform complex decisions they are required to make. Where previously executive level employees would have to use estimations and predictions in order to make a value judgement, emerging software offers statistical evidence to guide and support critical decisions.
As the market becomes increasingly saturated with businesses adopting such methods, there is a growing time pressure for companies to update their systems. The recent collapse of contracting giant Carillion provides a timely reminder of how risky it can be to chase seemingly unattainable levels of efficiency on tight schedules.
Businesses must avoid taking a similar risk by preparing themselves for the inevitably seismic shift that Industry 4.0 offers.
The wealth of technologies available to businesses that promise to drive up their efficiencies is vast, but competition in these markets is already growing. Colossal developments are already being made by industry leaders that demonstrate just how present Industry 4.0’s presence already is. In order to remain competitive, and to capitalise on emerging technologies in doing so, businesses must be willing to embrace change.
Chris Proctor is CEO at Oneserve