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Industry 4.0: we need to look at the smaller picture

The debate around Industry 4.0 is too theoretical and risks leaving lower tier suppliers and smaller manufacturers behind, according to industrial services provider Eriks UK and Ireland. The warning comes in the wake of the ‘Made Smarter Review’, published late last year, which outlined an initial strategy to engage government and industry in harnessing Industry 4.0 by 2030.

Despite the recommendations, which Eriks supports, there is concern that many manufacturers, particularly those on lower levels of the supply chain, still feel daunted by the task being set, and require more practical advice. “The Made Smarter Review was the result of a welcome debate, but what is needed now is actionable advice that businesses can implement, particularly those with limited financial and technological resource,” said Steve Askins, UK engineering director at Eriks.

He continued: “We have to remember that much of British manufacturing is made up of lower tiers of the supply chain and smaller subcontractors, who are either not engaging in the current Industry 4.0 debate, or are daunted by the prospect. Industry 4.0 is an exciting opportunity, but a significant undertaking, even for smaller manufacturers. We need to start talking about Industry 4.0 in terms of small, but meaningful, changes that can be built upon gradually, not as an entire all-encompassing philosophy.”

According to Eriks, the big win for manufacturers is potentially maintenance strategy. “Maintenance is the low hanging fruit with Industry 4.0, in terms of helping organisations better understand overall equipment effectiveness and the real cost of downtime,” said Askins. “Ultimately, Industry 4.0 is about better use of information that can be used to upgrade maintenance from a reactive stance to a more proactive, planned or preventative strategy.”

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