Martin Donnelly, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, gave his backing to Industry 4.0.
The transformation of industry in Britain into 'digitally-connected factories of the future' took a big step forward recently at a conference at the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) near Coventry.
About 150 leading engineers, business people and academics from Germany, the UK, the Netherlands and Italy heard how digitised factories will be developed in Britain and across the world, in a more connected and collaborative way, to achieve two main objectives: find customer value and increase productivity.
Opening the conference, the first of this scale on Industry 4.0 in the UK, MTC Chief Executive, Clive Hickman, commented that the MTC was proud to play a leading role in the development of digitising technologies and in encouraging British industry to collaborate in order to reap the benefits of Industry 4.0.
Dr Hickman added: "The MTC has played a key role in the development of Industry 4.0 so far in the UK, by housing the country's first digital factory demonstrator. It is now vital that we continue to invest in these technologies and skills, and encourage uptake throughout the UK manufacturing sector."
The German Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Dr Peter Ammon, said that manufacturing accounts for 22 percent of GDP in Germany, employs 15 million people, and is a major driver of exports, but that Germany could not rest on its laurels. "
Making digital information and communication technology usable for industry will be key to maintaining our competitiveness internationally. 80% of German businesses think that their value chain will be digitised substantially by 2020," Ammon said.
He added that a recent study in Germany found that industrial companies were predicting that they would invest a total of €40bn in this area by the same date.
Martin Donnelly, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, gave his backing to Industry 4.0. The government has recently sent representatives to (more than one) European Union roundtables on the subject to learn about European countries' adoption of these digital techniques for capturing value.
Such technology includes product-to-machine communication for the mass customisation of products in a production line, 3D visualisation to improve the design of more complicated production layouts and technologies that enable more flexible manufacturing, like collaborative robots.
The conference hosted by the MTC, part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, revealed that companies in Britain are already using Industry 4.0-type technologies. Factory digitisation is a core focus for the HVM Catapult and Innovate UK, the government's innovation agency, going into 2016.
The MTC and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult will be running more seminars and conferences on I4.0 in the coming months.