Manufacturers invest in digitalisation as Industry 4.0 nears

A digital revolution, driven by automation, is transforming the industrial world. Brian Holliday, managing director of Siemens Digital Factory, examines how manufacturers can stay on the right side of this disruption


Digitalisation is coming. Industry 4.0, the highly digitised environment rich in data and interconnected devices, is ushering in a new era for manufacturers. Seamless and intelligent digital platforms are set to boost productivity, promote flexible production capability, tackle cyber-security concerns, create high-value jobs, aid competitiveness in a global marketplace and drive commercial growth.

Looking at this from the business community’s perspective, it is clear that establishing how the UK’s manufacturing and industrial sectors embrace and adapt to a highly digitalised future, and benefit from the clear opportunity this brings, will be a fundamental factor in any future economic success.

The current government-supported Industrial Digitalisation Review (IDR), led by Siemens UK chief executive Juergen Maier and including representatives from some of the UK’s most prominent businesses, is helping to lay the groundwork for a manufacturing digital future. It will highlight how the design, development and deployment of digital technologies can support and drive the UK’s digital industrial revolution. The review report is due in the coming months.

The IDR will set out a clear industrial digital roadmap and offer expert insight into what needs to be done to prepare the economy for the coming waves of technological change. It seeks to ensure that a thriving digital infrastructure supports the growth of digitally enhanced businesses, enabling job creation and a more skilled workforce.

Digital adoption will drive higher productivity levels across our important manufacturing and industrial sectors and, ultimately, the achievement of long-term economic prosperity that will benefit society at large. But there is still some way to go.

According to EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, just 11 per cent of manufacturers think the sector is geared up to take advantage of the fourth industrial revolution. This mindset must be changed through collaboration and communication, so UK companies gain the confidence to embrace digital technologies, including Siemens’ innovative MindSphere open cloud platform with data analytics and connectivity capabilities, and are able to overcome whatever barriers stand before them, notably investment finance.