The North West is the largest manufacturing region in the United Kingdom. It has been selected for a new and innovative strategy to help SMEs in the Liverpool City Region, to implement Industry 4.0 (I4.0) in their companies. Metis Automation joined this programme in June 2017 and are optimistic about using LCR4.0 to expand our range of services and software, for Industry 4.0.
How Industry 4.0 is Changing the Manufacturing Landscape
The internet enables a change in shift for how manufacturers reach their customers. For example, suitcase manufacturer Trunki gets 90% of their customers directly through their website. This has allowed the company to sell their product with less mediators between customer and manufacturer.
When Industry 4.0 is implemented in a company like Trunki, orders can be placed directly by customers on their website. These get processed by a company Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. Then, commands are sent to all manufacturing equipment and production lines to schedule and manufacture the customer’s product. Implementing automated production systems like this enables more products to be produced, with lower overheads and increased productivity.
UK Government predicts a boost to UK economy of £350bn by 2030 due to Industry 4.0, because there are many business opportunities to be capitalised on.
Is the UK ready for Industry 4.0?
There is uncertainty about the UK’s preparation to implement I4.0 in SME manufacturing companies. Elevated levels of automation in Germany makes I4.0 easier, but it is more difficult in the UK. This is because many SMEs have not automated their manufacturing processes, and because many companies in the UK did not implement the 3rd Industrial revolution – automation and computerisation.
These companies need a shortcut process automation, to implement connected manufacturing. A factory changing from manual processes with paper, to connected automated processes, will result in a potential 22% productivity increase. Therefore, there is a possibility for a huge business impact by embracing Industry 4.0.
We are part of a global market with worldwide competitors. If UK businesses do not implement I4, their costs will go up and customers will eventually go to countries where Industry 4.0 has been implemented.
Barriers to Industry 4.0 Uptake
Why aren’t manufacturers implementing Industry 4.0 in their organisations:
- Time it takes to implement and their lack of time to focus on it.
- Cost of implementation.
- Low priority for their business.
Liverpool City Region 4.0 is about reducing the barriers to entry for I4.0, working with experts from Liverpool John Moores University, Sensor City, the Virtual Engineering Centre and the Hartree Centre.
LCR4.0 was launched in November 2016 and funding is secured until the end of 2018.