The Fourth Industrial Revolution ROI
Ian Wright posted on November 01, 2017 |
Report finds digital manufacturing could be worth £455B and 175k jobs in the UK.
(Image courtesy of Industrial Digitalisation Review.)
(Image courtesy of Industrial Digitalisation Review.)
When confronted with some piece of supposedly game-changing, paradigm-shifting, revolutionary new technology, savvy engineers know there’s one simple question you should always ask:

What’s the return on investment (ROI)?

Honestly, it’s a point worth considering whether you’re talking about the latest trends—like metal additive manufacturing, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and augmented reality—or tried and true tech, like industrial robots, 5-axis CNC machines and turning centers.

Nowadays, with all the talk of a fourth industrial revolution, the ROI question seems all the more pressing.

So, what is Industry 4.0 really worth?

According to a new report, for the UK it would mean an extra £455 billion, an increase in manufacturing sector growth between 1.5 and 3 percent per annum and a net gain of 175,000 jobs throughout the country’s economy over the next decade. As a bonus, the adoption of digital manufacturing technologies would also reduce the UK’s CO2 emissions by 4.5 percent in that same period.

“Overall, from the data and evidence collated, we are confident that ITDs [industrial digitalization technologies] can improve industrial productivity by more than 25 percent,” states the Made Smarter Review.

The report was commissioned by the UK government and led by Juergen Maier, CEO of Siemens UK. In addition to its economic projections, the report lays out a strategy to make the UK a global leader in the fourth industrial revolution by 2030. More specifically, the report highlights three main obstacles on this path:

  • Ineffective leadership for industrial digitalization
  • Poor levels of IDT adoption, particularly among SMEs
  • A lack of support for start-ups and scale-ups

The report’s recommendations for addressing these issues include:

  • Investing in a National Adoption Programme to accelerate IDT adoption by SMEs, with trials and targeted support in the North West, the UK’s “manufacturing powerhouse”
  • Creating a network of Digital Research Centers to coordinate expertise on key IDTs
  • Establishing a Made Smarter UK Commission in the form of a public-private partnership
  • Developing a skills program to re-skill a million workers over the next five years
  • Enhancing the the UK’s R&D Tax Credit System to incentivise IDT investment

“My call to action is now for government and the business community to come together and embrace these proposals,” writes Maier in the report’s Foreword. “I believe they represent a very positive agenda that we can all get behind, especially in these times of economic and political uncertainty. Focusing on the long-term challenge of the new industrial revolution will bring us together as a nation and make our country more prosperous.”

The report’s recommendations are ambitious—especially the call for re-training a million workers over the next five years—but they’re also in line with many other initiatives already taking place in the UK and elsewhere.

A global consensus appears to be emerging about the best way to bring about the fourth industrial revolution, involving making Industry 4.0 technologies more affordable for SMEs, opening new tech and research centers and encouraging interest and professional development in manufacturing.

For more advanced manufacturing news from abroad, find out What Industry 4.0 Looks Like in China.

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