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Growing your #4IR journey at Smart Factory Expo

Posted on 05/12/2017

Putting #4IR into practice.

Our take-aways from this year's Smart Factory Expo.

The City of Liverpool recently staged the Smart Factory Expo run by The Manufacturer.  As a partner at the show, individuals from the manufacturing team at the KTN attended to find out just what the industry thinks and catch up with individuals from across the manufacturing sector.

The focus of the Expo was showcasing #4IR. The talks and discussion topics highlighted that the manufacturing landscape is radically changing and the fourth industrial revolution which is happening now has resulted in a need for significant change within the sector to capitalise on the opportunities #4IR brings.

For some it was clear that this new world is comfortable and familiar, but for others it is a minefield of complexity and jargon.

It was very apparent that anyone could attend these events and come back to the office with lots of fancy new technologies and gadgets to roll out. However tempting this may seem, as some of the technologies were pretty cool the message was loud, clear and consistent, the best strategy is to start small and let your 4IR journey grow.

The expo clearly showcased that automation and machine learning are already integrated into everyday use by manufacturers across the UK. The technologies have not been developed by chance but in collaboration with people where the process or opportunity drove the change, with many of these collaborations enabled through Innovate UK and the KTN.

Traditional tools like lean still have a significant place within the manufacturing environment and, when used in combination with #4IR solutions, businesses are able to deliver optimised solutions that really work.  Chris Beadle, Jaguar Landrover Head of Global Manufacturing IT, advised that future strategies around #4IR should be business based and not technology based. Companies should go agile using monthly sprint strategies for development and look for internal staff with the right type of transferable skills – people who are doing ecommerce, coding and gaming at home.

Whilst manufacturing is currently exciting, it is also very challenging, particularly as UK productivity has been relatively flat over the last 10 years. The industry agrees, business has to embrace these new technologies to enable the manufacturing environment to stay competitive and deliver its potential.

Dayne Turbitt, SVP of Enterprise at Dell EMC during his keynote at the Manufacturers Leaders conference referred to the power of data to disrupt entire industries of which IoT will be a huge contributor, potentially enabling UK manufacturing to become up to 25% more productive by 2025.

A clear message coming out from the expo is that there are real opportunities to support people navigating this complex environment and provide funding to accelerate innovation within this space.

As a community we need to decode what 4IR actually means, and support businesses to realise the potential that these developments can bring to their business.

KTN have piloted the 4Manufacturing initiative designed to enable SME manufacturers to take their first steps along the 4IR journey, with the aim of driving and enabling innovation and business improvement. To find out more about 4Manufacturing visit www.4manufacturing.co.uk