Many firms unprepared for next Industrial Revolution

By Matt Atherton contact

- Last updated on GMT

Just 42% of manufacturers are prepared for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, EEF claims
Just 42% of manufacturers are prepared for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, EEF claims

Related tags: Innovation, Supply chain management

More than half of British food and drink manufacturers risk missing out on the Fourth Industrial Revolution – known as 4IR – warns a report from EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation.

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.”

Track inventory

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.

Boost production

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

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1 comment

Track consumer usage?

Posted by Clive Teobald,

Who the hell wants their fridge instructing some AI robot somewhere to deliver another pack of 4 cans of baked beans because I've just opened the last can? NO THANKYOU and I suspect 98% of the population would reject this idea too! This is taking away the right of the consumer to choose the brand or even indeed if they want baked beans for the next week. NO WAY, NOT EVER, NO !!!

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