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Industry 4.0 is coming - are you ready?

Written by Andy Millar on 1 February 2018

Developing an innovation strategy for your business? This article explains how EEN can help your business exploit Industry 4.0.

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Industrial 4.0 Cyber Physical Systems concept , Gears text , Internet of things network , smart factory solution , Manufacturing technology , automation robot text with blue background

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For starters, what is Industry 4.0? What was Industry 3.0 for that matter? To make sense of it, some terminology:


  • Industry 1 to 3. The progression from the use of steam power in factories, to full scale automation with robots and CNC machines.

  • IoT or Internet of Things. At home, that’s your fridge or lightbulb connected to the internet. At work, it might be a robot or a camera on a production line.

  • Big Data. Simply, very large sets of information which normal database software can’t analyse. For example all the information relating to traffic in a city. The term often refers to both the data and the IT technology used to handle it.


Industry 4.0 uses Big Data to take the information generated by the things on the IoT and uses it for commercial (or social and healthcare) advantage. Industry 1 to 3 was all about reducing the cost of products by mechanisation, standardisation and mass production and finally automation. In very simplistic terms Industry 4.0 is about reducing the cost of and, creating new markets for, digitised (personalised) products and services. Sometimes the result may be only indirectly visible to the end user (the same product is delivered faster, cheaper). Sometimes products themselves are changed - with more connectivity, more sensors, more customisation.


In a 2014 survey and report PWC predict that European companies can expect €110billion extra revenue per year attributable to Industry 4.0, and reports that companies in the survey with a portfolio of highly digitised products have twice the growth of those without.


A good example of Industry 4.0 is how it will affect the food and packaging industries. There is consumer demand for a range of things:


  • Intelligent labelling, which can sense temperature or location, or many other things
  • Unique batches  supplied to individual customers - imagine a sandwich manufacturer supplying  mixed crates to shops based on weather, recent shop sales,  current shop stock, latest marketing initiatives
  • Lot size 1 production lines - a packaging line that can pack similar but different items, individually labelled. This is already happening in the perfume industry
  • Less wastage due to shelf life issues
  • Traceability


Sensors, printed electronics, robotics, location technology, and big data technology are all coming together to create Industry 4.0 solutions to that demand.


An example of an EEN client already getting involved in this is Nuprint Technologies in Londonderry who specialise in label solutions for any package. Initially the MD, Gavin Killeen, went on a EEN technology mission to Sweden to look at printed electronics in the Norkoping region. This visit confirmed Gavin's views on the future of his company and he developed an innovation strategy which has led to significant R&D activity. One area of research is to reduce the cost of temperature sensitive inks, which can be used to display a message when food temperature has gone over a safe level. Today Nuprint are a leader in advanced labelling solutions and have invested £2.5m over the past 18 months, and are part of an INTERREG project on thermochromic ink with Glasgow University.


So how can EEN help your business get involved?


Technology Missions


EEN can help you access relevant missions, for example the upcoming Innovate UK Global Business Accelerator trip to Canada on Advanced Manufacturing. This trip will provide the chance to see problems and solutions in complex manufacturing systems. So, for example, if you are a company with expertise in Big Data, you might go and find ways to use your technology in lean supply chains which are vulnerable to variability, and unplanned disruption.


Another upcoming mission is the Global Business Accelerator mission to Singapore on Urban Living, covering topics like smart mobility, transport, traffic management, logistics, and road safety.


Partners Opportunity Database (POD)


The EEN POD has thousands of opportunities to collaborate globally on innovation projects. Many of these projects are connected to Industry 4.0 solutions. A very good example is this French company looking for smart sensor technology to measure pH in real time.


Brokerage Events


One of the biggest trade fairs in the world for industrial technology is Hannover Messe. A major theme across the fair is Industry 4.0 and there are trade shows within the fair such as Digital Factory. As at many other large trade fairs, EEN run brokerage events where you can meet exhibitors and visitors for a scheduled, pre-planned meeting in a VIP lounge. Registration is free until 15th Feb.


So to summarise


Industry 4.0 is something which affects consumers, manufacturers, patients, healthcare providers, IT developers to name a few. It cross cuts all aspects of society and business and EEN can help your business to understand the opportunities and the threats.


Of course, standby for UK government's investment in AI and quantum - both £20m.