Only 42% of manufacturers were prepared for the new wave of technical change and opportunities that 4IR will bring, according the report published today (November 28).
EEF chief economist Lee Hopley said: “4IR is happening and the UK’s success in this global industrial transformation will hinge on manufacturers’ strategies and ambitions. This new era requires cultural shifts, new business models and the ability to adapt and innovate.
“This report is about sharing this insight with manufacturers but, more importantly, also providing practical examples so that 4IR stops being about theory and starts being about something that manufacturers can genuinely see how and why to apply.”
What is 4IR?
- Sector undergoing change to Fourth Industrial Revolution
- Industries to use more advanced technology and big data
- Smarter products and production line
The report used three examples to show manufacturers how the industry would change after 4IR. It predicted supply chains would become “smarter”, allowing firms to track inventory and to accurately calculate delivery costs per mile.
“Smarter production” meant “multi-functional robots and collaborative robots” would be used to perform multiple tasks at once, working side-by-side with humans, the report said. It also claimed manufacturers would use virtual reality for giving instructions to staff.
Manufacturers would also be able to track consumer use of their products, so it could automatically send reserves to customers so they never run out, EEF claimed.
The EEF report also claimed 61% of manufacturers thought digital technology would boost production, and 74% said 4IR would fundamentally change customer expectations. Almost 70% said 4IR would change manufacturing faster than any other industry change in history, and 39% were concerned they might not keep up with these changes.
Supply chain management firm Oracle – which also worked on the report – said it was encouraged to see manufacturers were taking note of 4IR.
Oracle product innovation and supply chain apps leader Vikram Singla said: “The technological element of this transformation is critical as it will mean change happens at unprecedented pace.
“Cloud computing, in particular, and the scale, speed, flexibility and agility it enables, will mean businesses will very quickly be able to make changes to everything from production processes to the way they manage their supply chains, product innovation and customer relationships.”
Meanwhile, EEF said last month that manufacturers’ needed to nurture their young talent to benefit from the increased use of digital technology.
EEF 4th industrial revolution (4IR) report – at a glance
- 42% of firms understand or were prepared for 4IR
- 61% said digital tech would boost productivity
- 74% said customer expectations would change
- 68% said 4IR would happen more quickly in manufacturing than in other sectors
- 39% worried about their ability to keep up