Industry 4.0: Solutions for Today – Strategies for the Future

This interview with Martin Kelman was first published in the Engineering magazine. Do you have a working definition of Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 is about data and the services that can be enabled using data. It is about valuing data as much as any physical asset. The digital threads are the fuel that drives the smart decision making process, and the new technologies are the physical manifestation of those decisions.


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What does an Industry 4.0 manufacturing system or process include?

There isn’t an Industry 4.0 supermarket where you can buy a ready-made solution. Industry 4.0 sits between both the pull of business and the push of technology. There are traditional technologies such as control systems, SCADA, MES, PLM and ERP, and there are new technologies such as Big Data, Augmented Realty, cloud computing, 3D virtualisation and advanced robotics. These technologies add value to business by making what they do today more efficient.

Does Industry 4.0 mean completely automated production to the exclusion of workforce involvement in the process – i.e. fewer jobs?

One thing is for sure change is inevitable; the progress of technology can’t be stopped. This has been true since the 1st Industrial Revolution. It means higher productivity, which will lead to new types of jobs being created, for example robot ethics. It also means the reshoring of manufacturing due to the adoption of new technologies and the impact of higher wages in China etc. Industry 4.0 enables younger people to get excited about manufacturing for the first time in a generation! We have seen the effects of digitisation in other industries. We must ensure that we are ready and willing to embrace it, otherwise UK manufacturing PLC will lose out.

How does it make a company more competitive and why?

Studies from Gartner, McKinsey and Deloitte have concluded that Industry 4.0 will result in 20-30% machine downtime reduction, 12-20% inventory reduction, 30-50% cost of quality reduction and up to 30-50% forecast accuracy improvement. The UK Government’s own estimations state that Industry 4.0 will put an additional £91.6bn into the UK economy, with an additional 300,000 manufacturing jobs by 2035.

Is the adoption of Industry 4.0 processes and technologies a short or long term goal – can it be achieved in stages?

At ATS we recommend a two-strand approach; turn your immediate requirements into real solutions, and develop new strategies and roadmaps for digital transformation. In other words, long term thinking – acting now whilst getting it done.

How can innovative technology and software enable integration of Industry 4.0?

Much of the technology already exists in one form or other, but hasn’t necessarily been adopted or proven in industrial settings. Manufacturing is a conservative sector; it doesn’t shout about its successes therefore it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Many technology providers focus on other sectors; big data in marketing, augmented reality in gaming and e-commerce in retail. I’ll give you an example. Very few manufacturers offer their products and services to purchase on the web. Very few store their manufacturing data in the Cloud. However, many of us go home and manage our bank accounts online. Moving forward, manufacturing needs to embrace these opportunities.

What are the challenges to implementation?

The legacy of people, structure, process and technology.
Many companies are dealing with the day-to-day challenge of getting their product out the door. They don’t always have the space they need to be able look too far in the future. Companies need to make a leap of imagination and create a strategy that puts technology at the heart of their businesses. An example of a business doing this is Ocado. Many people think they are simply an online supermarket; when in fact they are a technology company that focuses on delivering goods as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

How key is Government policy to its future success?

The Government’s job is to create the conditions, skills, and infrastructure that allow the digital age to flourish. It has been recognised that the 4th Industrial Revolution will have a wide ranging impact on business, people, the environment and society. The problem is lack of stability is causing Government only to look at today’s issues and not tomorrow’s future.

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For which Industry sectors is Industry 4.0 most relevant?

All sectors.
Some sectors have different challenges and are at different levels of maturity. Some Industry sectors (Food & Beverage and Automotive) have had to digitise, due to market pressures, before the Industry 4.0 phrase was coined. Other sectors are relativity new to the game (as in Aerospace and Life Science) and others must play catch-up (Heavy Industry).

What size of company is Industry 4.0 most relevant for?

All company sizes, as they are all a part of the supply chain.
In the D4I workshops that I have been involved with it is noted that the supply chain is seen as a key area for the UK. Although it is an area which is harder to achieve, the rewards are the greatest. It has been noted that collaboration between end-users, technology providers and research centres is essential. The UK is well-placed to take advantage of this situation.

What are the potential security issues?

We have seen with the recent “ransomware” attack, how valuable data has become. As with any attack, the attacker will always go for the weakest link. In this case, it was the lack of training in handling suspicious emails, and old IT systems with known security issues. Good architecture with correct policies and procedures would go a long way towards mitigating those issues. Many companies consider the manual management of ‘air-gapped’ equipment more of a risk than networked machines.

What will a factory of the future/smart factory look like?

The factory of the future could range from a shop on the High Street that prints custom-made trainers from 3D scans; ships that manufacture whilst transporting; to large factories containing flexible manufacturing cells producing a variety of products, assembled by robots and shipped by self-guided vehicles. This may sound fantastical, but UPS already has 3D printing machines located at transport hubs around America.


Martin Kelman

Senior Business Consultant

Martin has worked in the MOM industry for the last 25 years, deploying solutions in both process and discrete industries. For the last 10 years he has been working in the aerospace and defense industry solving manufacturing system challenges. Today, Martin’s has a privileged position where he is working with senior managers from blue chip companies, helping them understand how to change their businesses by utilising manufacturing maturity models to define their future Smart Manufacturing strategies.

Whilst performing his day job Martin gained an Open University hons degree, and now is an active member of the Institute of Technology and Engineering (IET). At the beginning of 2017 Martin was voted onto the international board of directors for MESA. Martin is also a member of the Digital4Industry leadership group advising the UK Government on the future of digital manufacturing. This group comprises of a number of universities, catapult centers, end users, trade associations and technology partners.