Internet of Business's comprehensive guide to where Industry 4.0 will lead manufacturers in the year ahead. Most manufacturers believe they are leading their markets in Industry 4.0 technologies, despite evidence to the contrary. There is a huge gap between the many companies that are exploring digital manufacturing strategies – via technologies such as automation, robotics, AI, and the Internet of Things – and those that are implementing them successfully. With Brexit looming, many manufacturers and solutions providers fear what this will mean for the wider European industrial community, which depends on the free movement of people and confident investment. The UK Budget recently sought to soften this blow by reinforcing the UK's commitment to a strong environment for international scientific collaboration. As part of this investment in R&D, the government will increase the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund by £1.1 billion, supporting technologies of the future. This includes up to £121 million for the Made Smarter initiative to support the transformation of manufacturing through digitally enabled technologies, such as the Internet of Things and virtual reality.
The wave of technological changes is fast sweeping across multiple fronts. The rapid adoption of transformative technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence is putting us on the cusp of a new digital age. While we keep adding every'digital progress story' to the list of the'next big thing', another technological advancement in the physical space also has immense potential to disrupt the status quo. Robotics is indeed realigning the rich human talent pool, altering ways in which we operate. One of the most prominent examples is robotics in manufacturing.
Science fiction writers describe them as intelligent robots. Industry 4.0 advocates call them autonomous cyber-physical systems. The former often depict them in the worst possible light, as part of their nightmarish visions and dystopian horror stories. From Arthur C. Clarke's HAL to James Cameron's T-800, these AI-powered mechanical monsters have a tendency to use their supernatural strength and intelligence to outwit, outrun and outgun humans. On the other hand, the tech sector tends to view them as the catalyst to exponential productivity growth–the key to automation utopia.
Industry has used robots for decades. They were once confined to safety cages in manufacturing facilities, programmed to perform one task perfectly, over and over again. Their purpose was to make high volumes of goods more quickly and cheaply. But advances in a number of technologies are springing robots from their cages, liberating them to work in new roles, in new industries, and with new benefits. Robots are changing far more than manufacturing--in industries ranging from retail to financial services, they are clambering onto the agendas of strategy, marketing, customer experience, and product leaders.
Manufacturing is undergoing massive changes; the world economic forum reported earlier this week the four key drivers that will accelerate business transformations. These are set to dominate the next four-year period for businesses. The report also claims that by 2022, robots will have created over 130 million jobs, this almost double the amount they are projected to take (75 million). Read TM's case studies which show robots will create jobs instead of take them. These are not the only drivers of change for manufacturing, but they will, and are of course disrupting and transforming the industry irrevocably.