EEF senior business environment policy adviser Chris Richards told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “As a sector more closely associated with batch production, 4IR also offers opportunities to increase customer value through new approaches, such as the shift from mass production to mass customisation.”
Mass customisation included the low unit costs of mass production, but allowed manufacturers to personalise each product.
But the sector needs to become more innovative to take full advantage of 4IR.
Needs to become more innovative
“Our recent analysis of business research and development data shows the food and drink sector does not innovate enough – this needs to change if current businesses in the sector are to take advantage of 4IR,” said Richards.
EEF’s claim came after it said only 42% of manufacturers were prepared for the new wave of technical change and opportunities 4IR would bring. The organisation released a report this week (November 28) to show how the industry would change after 4IR.
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. It goes far beyond simply investing in new technologies and techniques – 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.”
Supply chains would become “smarter” after 4IR, EEF predicted, allowing firms to track inventory and to accurately calculate delivery costs per mile.
Production lines could feature multifunctional robots working with humans, and products could automatically tell manufacturers to send a customer more when they’ve run out, the report said.
Meanwhile, EEF said last month that manufacturers needed to nurture their young talent to benefit from the increased use of digital technology.
What is 4IR?
- Sector undergoing change to Fourth industrial Revolution
- Industries to use more advanced technology and big data
- Smarter products and production lines