The much-anticipated, week-long MACH 2018 show took place in April, with a host of exhibitors showcasing new products, visitors attending to learn and sign new deals, and seminar workshops tackling key topics.
Although there was a buzz in the air throughout the show, the mood really ramped up on the fourth day as visitors piled into the main seminar room to hear from Juergen Maier, chief executive of Siemens UK and chairman of the independent Industrial Digitalisation Review, Made Smarter, released last November.
“I have been leading a review for the government to make sure that we, the manufacturers, have a core place within the Industrial Strategy and indeed we, as Great Britain, find an even stronger place in the future of manufacturing and in this Fourth Industrial Revolution,” he said.
Made Smarter, continued Maier, is about how UK manufacturing can “get its mojo back” and become a proud nation – not in the sense of traditional manufacturing, but in terms of into the future.
“There are just as many people coming here [to MACH] to learn about digital and software technology as there are about the machines themselves,” he said. “That is what the Fourth Industrial Revolution is about – it’s about both the physical asset of the machine and the data, as well as the digital information and the extra productivity that we can harness through
all of that data.”
Delegates were told that to solve the UK’s productivity challenge, there is no question that investment should be going into the manufacturing and technology sector because it can apply technologies – especially digital technologies – and drive very significant productivity gains. Maier added that there is also good news in the government increasingly joining industry in partnership – for example, into new infrastructure and a strengthening ambition to invest in R&D.
However, he warned industry is lagging – only spending about 1.7% of GDP on R&D – and “not investing enough”, especially in the space of advanced digital technologies, when comparing other markets. There are ways that industry can bring the Fourth Industrial Revolution to life though, Maier explained.
“We clearly have to innovate more and create the technologies that are a part of this industrial revolution,” Maier said. “In other words, we need to be the providers of the Industrial Internet of Things platforms, to have people, here in the UK, writing the code, creating the machine learning and the artificial intelligence (AI) that sits in those platforms.
“We also need companies that are developing additive manufacturing as a technology, so it’s great to see companies that are investing in such technology. We need to create and innovate more of those sorts of companies.
“When you look at how much we are creating there are some really good examples, but actually when you look for where the start-ups and scale ups are, look for how many of these companies are in the industrial space and it is not enough. When you look at what is being done in AI, a lot of them are working on consumer behaviours. Where are the people that are applying that AI
to manufacturing processes?”
The second area that needs to be tackled is in the adoption of technologies, Maier explained. He said that the UK’s weak point is the pace at which technologies are being implemented, especially in small-to-medium sized manufacturers.
“We did a survey as part of Made Smarter and in the UK about 8% of manufacturing SMEs feel they have enough knowledge to start investing in Industry 4.0 technologies. In Germany that figure is 50% – and they still don’t think that’s good enough. If you don’t get on board then you are leaving behind a significant productivity opportunity, so we need an adoption movement to get going.”
Skill & upskill
The third area is all around upskilling and getting more young people interested in industry, the seminar heard. “We are not investing enough in skills. That is the skills of young people coming into our industry, but also we, as businesses, are not putting enough into educating our workers.
“For us to really lead this revolution, everyone needs to understand, maybe not the absolute depths of technologies, but certainly everyone in manufacturing needs to know what the potential is and what different technologies can deliver for us. We are not doing enough in that space.
“If you look at apprenticeship starts, they are down these last 12 months by about 30% over the previous 12 months. I know many of us are quick to blame things like the Apprenticeship Levy and maybe that the government didn’t get that quite right. But is that a good enough reason for us not to invest in the key capital that we have in our manufacturing operations, which is the people coming into our industry?
“I would suggest that it isn’t and we all need to do more as manufacturers to invest.”
Get a move on
Last but not least, Maier added, we just “need to get a move on”. “Movement is starting and that is a movement of the future of manufacturing, our own Fourth Industrial Revolution and we called that revolution Made Smarter,” he said. “We need to invent and create our own as it won’t be the same as the German industrial revolution – there will be subtle differences; we have to create this movement and get behind it.”
However, just focusing on one area is not enough, he warned. Manufacturers need to be doing all four because if you just innovate then you miss the productivity benefit by not adopting, and if you just adopt and don’t innovate, you end up displacing jobs, the room heard.
Mojo and confidence
Maier concluded the seminar will a call to arms. “We need to get on with it and we need to get this mojo and confidence,” he said.
“There is a lot we can do in terms of investing in technology and where better to say that than here at MACH.
“No one is stopping you investing in technology – yes, it’s great if you can get more help and I believe the ecosystem in the UK is better than it has ever been, and we will continue to strengthen it and better it, so let’s get out there and do it.
“I also think it needs leadership from the regions. When you’re sat in Westminster it is harder to understand what life is like for us, the manufacturers.
“We need to show more leadership and of course that is leadership in the broader movement of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
We need to up our voice in terms of how important this is for us and that voice is growing.”
BOX: Work currently being carried out by the Made Smarter Commission
Siemens UK chief executive Juergen Maier told delegates at the MACH 2018 seminar about the three key areas that the Made Smarter Commission is currently working on to help UK manufacturers bring the Fourth Industrial Revolution to life:
”As part of the Made Smarter work, we are working with government to get started on some ‘demonstrators’ to show how some of these technologies can be adopted. Of course, some of these demonstrators are already out there, but we need more of these so that people can see how they can apply technologies such as cobotics. We plan to get more of these up and running throughout the UK.”
“[We plan to] get better advice out there, especially for SMEs – impartial advice on how technology can be applied. The issue is that there are lots of people out there who can give advice and I understand that an SME will be questioning if someone is just trying to sell them stuff. So we are working with the government to create a better advisory service – an independent service – and we are going to pilot something like that in the North West of England to see if we can get it working with a view of scaling it up.”
An upskilling programme
“It’s up to every company to take their own responsibility [in relation to training], but what we can do is make [training] material more readily available, so we have an initiative on the go to collate all that material together. The key message for me is that you can wait forever for people to fix the system, but it is our responsibility to train our people.”