Industry 4.0 View more

Industry 4.0

It is much publicised that the UK is sailing its course towards a new revolution in the form of Industry 4.0.

For those of you who are not aware, Industry 4.0 is the name for the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. It includes cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things, cloud computing and cognitive computing.

Industry 4.0 creates what has been called a "smart factory", where digital information will lead to a new dawn of efficiency savings and productivity boosts within businesses. Technological cyber advancements will enable new practices to be designed that will further develop mass production techniques and streamline processes.

As much as the word Industry 4.0 is bantered around the industry, it is still hugely unclear what the impact will be for the UK’s manufacturing workforce.

An organisation called Made Smarter, has commissioned a report on Industrial 4.0 reporting that the UK’s manufacturing sector could benefit by as much as £455billion if, over the next decade, it can unlock the benefits of the fourth industrial revolution, by deploying robotics, 3D printing and artificial intelligence.

According to the report, the Government and Industry could put Britain at the forefront of these new technologies, giving the economy a much needed productivity boost and a potential net gain of 175,000 highly skilled, better paid jobs.

However, Industry 4.0 comes with a cost, as the review also recommends that up to 1m industrial workers will need to be upskilled to enable digital technologies to be deployed, and successfully exploited through a digitalisation skills strategy. It is therefore clear that, although Industry 4.0 is predicted to have long-term benefits, there is going to be short term pain.

It is much publicised that skill shortages exist within the market place and there is also concerns that Industry 4.0 will create a displacement of jobs through digitalisation. The CBI warns that 35% of jobs may be displaced by automation and artificial intelligence

In all honesty, I believe it is too early to predict the outcome of Industry 4.0, within the mainstream media there appears to be conflicting arguments both offering pro’s and con’s. What is clear, however, is that Brexit is creating a wave of uncertainty as organisations are threading carefully to see what impact the UK’s withdrawal from Europe has before ultimately pushing forward. Regardless of the cautious approach, Industry 4.0 is coming, it is on the horizon and it is charting its course to the UK.

I personally have faith that if jobs are displaced, new ones will undoubtedly take their place, although I do concede that the UK requires a new strategic approach to retraining. On a personal note, I believe Industry 4.0 will create opportunities for me as a recruiter and act to safeguard my own career as I will continue to recruit the skills organisations require to realise their ambitions.

The course ahead will unquestionably be hard, this can be said without hesitation, and the pressures I face today in my profession will continue to be exasperated due to the skills shortage.

Therefore, at this stage the only conclusion I can draw is that the UK government and businesses need to keep pressing ahead with apprenticeships, education, training and development so that we can be at the forefront of the digital age. When the full dawn of the new age comes, the UK needs to be positioned on the crest of the wave.

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