Alan Norbury, Chief Transformation Officer at Siemens discusses why the UK manufacturing sector can lead global efforts to drive the next industrial revolution

The UK is undergoing a time of digital change and disruption that is influencing both everyday customer experience and the general outlook for the business community.

Remember it is only just over ten years since the launch of the iPhone and society’s digital journey since then means consumers can now benefit from incredible productivity in the way we shop and travel through frictionless purchases or connect with one another through multiple apps.

And this same revolution can be applied to the industrial landscape. The adoption of digitalisation – the technology focus of Industry 4.0 – in manufacturing is accelerating as pioneers demonstrate the substantial efficiency and competitive advantages a digital transformation offers. Indeed, the World Economic Forum has identified a $100 trillion opportunity for both industry and society through the adoption of digital technologies.

Industry-4.0On the back of this, emerging industrial digitalisation technologies (IDTs) are opening a gateway to potential new operating models for our industrial sectors, and with it a whole new world of opportunity.

Industrial digitalisation technologies are going to be a real game changer.

The impact and value of IDTs are recognised in the conclusions and practical recommendations made in the Government-backed Made Smarter Review published late last year.

Led by Siemens CEO Juergen Maier, the overarching view of the Made Smarter expert panel was that if the widespread adoption of industrial digitalisation technologies can be achieved, substantial economic benefit will follow.

This includes a predicted £455 billion boost for the UK’s manufacturing base, an increase in manufacturing sector growth of up to 3% per annum, a net gain of 175,000 jobs and a reduction on CO2 emissions by 4.5%.

Outcomes of this order would be profound. Such results would play a major role in supporting future economic prosperity and help place the UK in the vanguard of digitally enhanced industrial nations who are all striving to meet the challenges of a complex and highly competitive global marketplace.

IDTs come in various forms and have different levels of maturity, ranging from artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, robotics and analytics. But it is the merging of the physical and digital worlds that bring with it the promise of the most significant enhancements to performance and productivity.

Businesses need to turn the smart data they have at their fingertips into value

Ultimately, it is the integration of digital and physical technologies into manufacturing production and logistics that can act as a spur for new exciting and innovative businesses to form, increased speed to market, the integration and strengthening of supply chains and the true realisation of productivity gains.

IoT and smart data

The computerisation of manufacturing based on enhanced levels of network interconnectivity, and a strong digital communication between machines and equipment, resulting in the production and use of smart data, is the real gold dust in the digitalisation story.

Experts are predicting that by 2030, one trillion devices will be connected across the globe, up from about 8 billion currently. It will be how we strategically and practically utilise the smart data intelligence connectivity within industrial settings that will shape the ultimate impact of our industrial digitalisation journey.

In short, businesses need to turn the smart data they have at their fingertips into value and emerging technology solutions now exist to help them do this.

In the Internet of Things, billions of devices have addresses and are linked to the internet. They can transport data to the cloud for processing and be managed and controlled via applications. This is now possible thanks to miniaturised computing solutions, affordable sensors, ubiquitous networking and the availability of ‘smart’ devices in many areas.

It will only be through a digitally enhanced future, and the utilisation of data, that business models can be transformed

Siemens is working alongside many businesses across a range of industrial sectors who are currently engaged on their own digitalisation roadmap.

From listening to management it is heartening to hear that the work needed to convince them as to the worth of IDTs, and the data intelligence they can mine, is no longer a priority.

On a positive note, many companies have, or are planning to, instigate the adoption of practical industrial digitalisation technology solutions. The recent findings from the Global Pricing and Sales Study highlighted the move towards such a new stage, with its research finding that 81% of the companies questioned had, in fact, invested in digitalisation initiatives within the past three years.

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Increasingly, industrial businesses are appreciating that it will only be through a digitally enhanced future, and the utilisation of data, that their business models can be transformed to aid their strategic objectives.

A good example of the support available is MindSphere, Siemens’ cloud-based, open IoT operating system. It is enabling simple, secure and encrypted connections from machine to machine or process to process on an unprecedented scale. It is safe to say that its development is among the most significant and ambitious projects I’ve seen undertaken in my time spent in industry.

Thanks to innovations such as MindSphere, tangible benefits such as upscaling productivity, promoting flexible production capacity, tackling cybersecurity concerns, reducing environmental impact, delivering customised products to market more quickly, creating high value jobs and driving commercial growth, are set to be the new reality for those manufacturers who believe in the digital vision.

In the words of Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, Greg Clark MP: “The UK manufacturing sector has the potential to be a global leader in the industrial digital technology revolution.  Government and industry must work together to seize the opportunities that exist in the sector and promote the benefits of adopting emerging industrial digitalisation technologies.”


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