Despite the fact that automation and digital technology have the potential to transform manufacturing, new research has revealed that one in five UK businesses believe that the manufacturing industry is unprepared for Industry 4.0 (opens in new tab).
In partnership with Censuswide, the rapid manufacturing solutions company, Protolabs conducted a survey of senior decision makers across the UK to shed light on the digital capabilities of the country's manufacturing sector to discover that a large proportion of them do not acknowledge the role digitisation plays in manufacturing. They also failed to recognise how automation (opens in new tab) and digital technology could be harnessed to benefit UK manufacturing.
The survey found that 28.2 per cent still associate manufacturing with 'assembly lines' and that almost a quarter (24.6 per cent) still associate it with 'manual labour. Even more surprisingly, one in ten of the participants did not see any association between manufacturing and Industry 4.0.
When questioned as to how the UK could retain its high position in the global manufacturing market, 48.7 per cent of senior decision makers agreed that businesses need to invest more in R&D and over a third (35 per cent) were of the belief that a greater emphasis needed to be placed on STEM in education to help develop fresh talent and further industry growth.
Although automation and its potential benefits to manufacturing (opens in new tab) has gained popularity recently, 15 per cent of those surveyed said they had no automation in their manufacturing services and one in ten (9.7 per cent) expect there to be no or just a slight (15 per cent) increase in automation within their organisation over the next five years.
“The UK manufacturing sector is powered by innovation, and driven by entrepreneurial individuals partnered with highly-skilled engineers," said Protolabs' Stephen Dyson.
"This sector has embraced the benefits of digital technologies and automation possibly more than any other, and now the growth of digitisation is starting to transform manufacturing. ‘Industry 4.0’ is a more than a concept – we are living in it right now."
"However, the results of this survey indicate that there is limited understanding of Industry 4.0 and the impact it has already made, and will continue to make, to the progress of manufacturing. Additionally, the survey statistics reflect that manufacturing is not viewed as a high-tech, digitally-savvy industry, which is what British businesses increasingly are. Instead, the inherent perception remains of manufacturing with manual, labour-intensive processes.”
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