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Industry 4.0: time to start thinking small!

12 April 2018

The debate surrounding Industry 4.0 is too theoretical and risks leaving lower tier suppliers and smaller manufacturers behind, argues Steve Askins, UK engineering director at ERIKS.

The Made Smarter Review, published late last year, outlined an initial strategy to engage Government and industry in harnessing Industry 4.0 by 2030. Despite the recommendations, which ERIKS supports, there is some concern that many manufacturers, particularly those on lower levels of the supply chain, still feel daunted by the task being set, and require more practical advice.

The review was the result of a welcome debate, but what is now needed is actionable advice that businesses can implement, particularly those with limited financial and technological resource.

Much of British manufacturing is made up of lower tiers of the supply chain and smaller subcontractors, who are either not engaging in the current Industry 4.0 debate, or are daunted by the prospect. While it offers an exciting opportunity, it is a significant undertaking, particularly for smaller manufacturers.

We need to start talking about Industry 4.0 in terms of small, but meaningful, changes that can be built upon gradually, not as an entire all-encompassing philosophy.” A potential big win for manufacturers is maintenance strategy – the Industry 4.0 low hanging fruit in terms of helping organisations better understand Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) and the real cost of downtime. Ultimately, Industry 4.0 should simply be considered to be about better use of information which can be used to upgrade maintenance from a reactive stance to a more proactive, planned or preventative strategy.

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