How businesses can be “Made Smarter” by industrial digitalisation

30 Apr 2018

Business

Industry 4.0 is here. Industrial digitalisation technologies (IDTs) are going to transform the way we work and live and, if estimates are correct, could boost UK manufacturing over the next decade by as much as £455 billion.

This ‘fourth Industrial Revolution’ offers unrivalled opportunities to businesses, with positive impacts on management, production, logistics and the creation of new higher-paid jobs, but the hard work begins now in encouraging businesses to embrace and adopt these new technologies.

Professor Juergen Maier, CEO of Siemens, was commissioned by the Government to lead an independent review exploring how UK manufacturing can be transformed by IDTs and the results of the Made Smarter review have now been published, including a number of proposals to address barriers to growth.

He told Comment: “It is very clear that we can use this new digital technology revolution that is happening in manufacturing to return Britain to being a great nation of making and creating things.

“We want to raise the profi le of the importance of manufacturing as something that is shiny, bright, digital and exciting, as opposed to the image many people still hold of manufacturing.

Ultimately, we want to create lots of well-paid jobs and create economic prosperity – especially for our great northern regions.”

Addressing some of the economic disparity that exists between the UK’s regions is something that Professor Maier feels very strongly about.

“It happens in all countries, naturally a lot of business activity gravitates to the capital cities, such as finance, commerce, professional services and company headquarters. There is a concentration of economic activity and that automatically puts a lot of consumer spending into the local economy so it grows a big service sector.

“What has happened in many of our northern regions has been a decline in industry and a decline in the service industries. We need to work much, much harder to create jobs with the sort of salaries that create a massive pick up in our regions.”

Some of the technologies that are emerging, such as the Internet of Things, robotics, wearable technologies and 5G wireless technologies will be familiar to consumers, but behind the scenes, highly-specialised automation in manufacturing will also be vital to the UK’s future prosperity.

This is a key message of the Made Smarter review.

“If you are an engineering company, or if you think you have an opportunity to get involved in developing technology that may support digital manufacturing then get yourself out there, be ambitious.

“There is a massive opportunity in this area and we are putting in place mechanisms that can help small and medium firms to establish and grow their businesses.”

A new National Adoption Programme, proposed by Made Smarter to encourage the take-up of new technologies, will be piloted in the North West.

It will complement the existing support, which includes LCR 4.0, a programme backed by the European Regional Development Fund to connect SMEs in the Liverpool City Region to expertise and support, and Innovate UK.

St Helens Chamber can connect firms to this support via the Local Growth Hub, and regularly discusses these issues at the Chamber’s Manufacturing Forum.

Professor Maier added: “We are joining the dots together in the North West to make the entry points a little more visible, make people aware of what is available and get people involved in helping to create this new Industrial Revolution.

“In the past we have invested in technology but we haven’t created the appetite for companies to want to engage with it. What we are saying to SMEs now is get on board, engage with the technology and invest in the skills of your people.”

Any firms interested in discussing this further should contact Geoff Bates, Business Support Manager on 01744 742087 or email geoff.bates@sthelenschamber.com.