Industry 4.0 summit urges business leaders to adopt long term vision

Written by: Justin Cunningham | Published:
Industry 4.0 needs long term strategy Industry 4.0: Calls for long term strategy were mixed with more immediate calls to action

The first day of the UK’s inaugural Industry 4.0 summit in Manchester has seen key industry, business and Government figures call on strategy makers to form a cohesive long term vision to implement the fledgling technology.

The culture for many public and private companies is to closely view quarterly results as the measure of success or failure. However, Industry 4.0 is likely to require patience among investors.

Lord Prior of Brampton, Parliamentary under secretary of state at the Department for Business, Energy and Industry Strategy, said: “We need deeper pools of longer term 'patient capital' in the UK. If a company’s management does not take a longer term strategic view – even if that means sacrificing short term results and difficult meetings in meantime – then they simply won’t be here in 10 years’ time.”

Despite the call long-term vision, other figures were keen to stress that Industry 4.0 is happening already and that its implementation should be made a priority by both big business and UK SMEs, with Airbus VP, Jens Gralfs, commenting, "this is not about being fashionable, but staying competitive."

Industry 4.0 technologies include real-time sensing and the connectivity of automation systems to make smarter and more efficient products. The UK has been slow to implement many of the existing systems into manufacturing facilities and already faces the risk of falling behind Europe and the US.

For UK SMEs looking at Industry 4.0, the advice was to form partnerships. However, some individual engineering and manufacturing firms have privately expressed a nervousness at moving quickly, highlighting the potential risk of losing IP that could quickly be exploited by competitors.

Tanuja Randery, UK and Ireland President of Schneider Electric, said: "I don't think anyone will make Industry 4.0 work on their own. There is no clear solution to this and it remains a challenge for everyone, but there are some common themes.

"[UK Industry] needs to engage with the technology that is available today. SMEs, for example, can start by implementing it in bite-sized chunks and get an immediate benefit - whether that is energy saving or increasing productivity. You don't have to start by making huge five year decisions that you will be locked into."

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