A national rollout of industrial digitalisation technology could give a huge boost to sustainability and resource efficiency, and the North West could be the first to benefit.
The recommendation is a key part of the government’s new Made Smarter Review, which was commissioned to explore how the UK could make the most of cutting-edge digitalisation of industry, also known as Industry 4.0.
Digitalised smart technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), and the Internet of Things (IoT), offer huge benefits to manufacturers.
For example, AI systems can support the analysis of huge amounts of complex data collected by digitalised machinery, helping to identify “golden moments” where a product could be produced for half the energy or emissions, or scrap dramatically reduced.
Meanwhile, AR can enable engineers to see energy, water and waste flows in real time in the factory setting.
It is estimated that these sort of technologies could help deliver over £10 billion in reduced resource costs for UK manufacturers, while delivering a 4.5 per cent reduction in carbon emissions and a 25 per cent productivity boost.
However, while large companies are investing in these improvements, there is a poor level of adoption amongst SMEs due to concerns about cybersecurity and a lack of common standards allowing technologies to connect.
North West pilot
To help spread the benefit throughout the manufacturing sector, the Made Smarter Review recommends the creation of a ‘National Adoption Programme’ to accelerate take-up from SMEs.
The review suggests a six month pilot of the programme should take place in the North West, with the aim of engaging 3,000 SMEs.
Professor Jurgen Maier, chief executive of Siemens UK and lead author of the review, called for government and the business community to embrace the proposals.
“I believe [the proposals] represent a very positive agenda that we can all get behind. Focusing on the long-term challenge of the new industrial revolution will bring us closer together as a nation and make our country more prosperous.”