The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), Industry 4.0, the smart factory and smart manufacturing – terms we hear on a regular basis that are interchangeably used to describe the advent of disruptive technologies. But what does it actually mean to your business? Is it even relevant to your business?
Whenever I speak to business leaders, they have most certainly heard of this revolution, however, the raft of articles that describe the endless possibilities and warnings can soon become white noise and hype. It sounds too good to be true.
And here is why. When viewed holistically, there are many facets to Industry 4.0; the topic is vast and incorporates a wide mix of technologies. Because of this, its meaning can drastically differ from business to business and person to person, indeed, even within the same organisation.
Our exposure to The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) as a consumer can also distort our understanding. There is an abundance of smart products and services that have filtered into the marketplace and into our daily lives; smart phones, apps, Fitbits, smart meters, smart motorways and Uber. B2C and B2B can seem like completely different worlds and leading some to believe it is more relevant to B2C businesses.
Every business leader wants to make better products, improve productivity and gain a competitive advantage. But which disruptive technologies are relevant or beneficial to my business? How can I go about making the hypothetical a reality? What capital, time and resources are realistically required and when will I see a return?
- It's Good to Talk
The first port of call would be to openly discuss it – speak to your customers and supply chain, trade associations, peers at events. Understand how it is affecting them – the likelihood is that you have already had some kind of contact with Industry 4.0 and may not realise it.
- Minor Tweaks
Many manufacturers have continuously improved their processes over time; adopting advanced technology as well as utilising tried and tested methods of manufacture, often combined with lean and 6 sigma techniques. Industry 4.0 is the next improvement process and many businesses may have already begun to install sensors or have the software that, with a few minor adaptations, can analyse data in a slightly different way and be able to make more informed decisions.
- Trade Associations
Trade associations such as Make UK, BFFF, SMMT, ADS, MIA, Rail Alliance are all aware of Industry 4.0 and each have their own bank of initiatives, data and expertise. They are there to represent you and your industry so get in touch with your account manager and find out what resources they have, which could range from improving supply chain collaboration, through to training or the mechanism to applying for funding.
- Future of British Manufacturing Initiative
The Future of British Manufacturing Initiative (FoBMI) is a fantastic tool, free and available to all. All too often we attend events or read articles that ‘worship the problem’ rather than actually help! I would encourage any business to take the online readiness assessment tool which takes 15-20 minutes to complete. Even better, call me or one of our 4IR experts to go through the assessment with you.
FoBMI is a great starting point for any businesses wanting to hone in on the areas of industry 4.0 that are relevant to their own business. The end result is a personalised report that plots how your business is doing in five key areas of competitive advantage. Listen to episode 1 of our podcast or visit our dedicated webpage to find out more.