Industry 4.0 Summit

On the 4th and 5th April 2017, Manchester welcomed the Industry 4.0 Summit where manufacturing businesses from all over the globe gathered to hear the very latest on the 4th Industrial Revolution. There was a fantastic range of speakers via companies such as TechUK, Siemens, Airbus Group, McKinsey and Co, Roland Berger, Catapult, Unilever, IBM and Trade Union Confederation in Belgium.

Simon Reid from the Liverpool City Region LEP was at the Summit to discuss the possibilities of 4.0 technologies being used in smaller manufacturing businesses and how the LCR 4.0 project is doing just this. The LCR 4.0 project is part-ERDF funded and aims to support manufacturing SMEs within the Liverpool City Region, offering free support and advice in adopting 4.0 technologies to aid product development and improve their position within supply chains. The collaborative project is made up of a range of businesses including the Virtual Engineering Centre as part of the University of Liverpool, John Moores University, Sensor City, The Hartree Centre and the Liverpool City Region LEP.

Simon explained how some of the challenges we face as LCR 4.0 when speaking with SMEs includes a lack of awareness of 4IR, how to deal with this movement or how to secure a cost-effective solution. Across the manufacturing industry, there is also the threat of a skills shortage, as day-to-day roles and technology evolves. It would also appear SMEs are struggling to adapt to the demands of companies they supply to in terms of technology, goods tracking, product interactivity and customisation. This can lead to a threat of other countries across the globe, growing and adapting at a faster rate than the UK and eliminating our offering.

Speaking at the Summit, Simon dispelled rumours surrounding 4IR, He said: “4IR or Industry 4 is absolutely not solely the realm of the big corporates and there are opportunities in abundance for small business that are willing to seek out a competitive advantage.” Simon added that small businesses just have to believe in these opportunities and seek out the help which is already there and available; “There was no way that a few years ago I would have believed the Liverpool City Region could be a centre of excellence for 4IR – but many of the building blocks have been here for a while.”

Simon’s advice for SME’s is to not get left behind, “The companies who are early adopters and ‘disruptors’ or ‘innovators’ are the ones who tend to lead the pack when it comes to seizing market share. “

The feedback we received for LCR 4.0 during the event was fantastic with many approaching Simon to discuss the project further and the possibility of how they can get involved. We were pleasantly surprised to find how many delegates were already aware of LCR 4.0 before Simon spoke on the 2nd day.

Two local manufacturing SMEs, Value Chain and Brainboxes were also at the Summit with Simon, who have also approached LCR 4.0 in the hope to improve their technologies and processes.

LCR 4.0 aims to help 300 SMEs during the three year project, enable 200 collaborations between partners and businesses, create 60 new jobs within these supported businesses as well as aid 70 new product development cases. LCR 4.0 is the first project of its kind within the UK and was recently invited to the House of Commons for the official launch of the All-Party-Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) in recognition of the work which has already taken place since the projects launch in November 2016.