Industry 4.0 blindspot - a rallying cry!



It is now abundantly clear that the Automotive sector is undergoing a dramatic change globally. Technology is enabling a new breed of opportunity driving new innovations in the the development of cleaner, more efficient and safer vehicles. The rapid development of the digital economy is changing consumer expectations and old business models are being adapted, changed and even scrapped as a result. Political change is also creating new challenges for the automotive sector as the UK prepares for its withdrawal from the European Union. 


Greater than 80% of the Automotive Industry operating in the UK are large global non-UK owned organisations

In the face of all this change, the primary objective of the UK automotive sector stays the same – to remain globally competitive, yet the challenges it faces on global stage as other nations accelerate their digital initiatives should not be underestimated. Greater than 80% of the Automotive Industry operating in the UK are large global non-UK owned organisations. As commercially, predominantly shareholder driven enterprises, they will make strategic geographic and sourcing decisions based on where they can maximise their competitiveness. In an ever-increasing competitive and complex world, their ability to innovate and engineer product robustly, rapidly and cost effectively will drive much of their future investment strategy.


The opportunities presented by the digitalisation of engineering and manufacturing in the UK will be critical. Nations that lead this transformation will attract investment from high-value global businesses and foster technical innovation. Those that don’t will risk losing these industries. Any such loss of UK product engineering capabilities will have negative long-term implications for all industrial sectors.


'Design & Engineering is the bridging capability between science/technology and manufacturing with greater than 75% of product life-time costs set early in the engineering process'

There is much talk of 'Industry 4.0' with the majority of the discussions currently centred on the digitalisation of our manufacturing processes. Whilst the direct impact on the manufacturing of a product is sometimes easier to understand and communicate, the term 'manufacturing' is sometimes used wrongly in the context of 'Manufacturing Industries' and this has led to a significant 'blind spot' when it come to the process of engineering, validating and certifying the product itself. Design & engineering is the fundamental bridging capability between science/technology and manufacturing enterprise, with greater than 75% of product life-time costs set early in the engineering process. It is highly influential over markets and industrial solutions with the choice of systems architectures, production processes and supply chain defined early in the development cycle. 


A fundamental transformation of the product engineering process is essential to achieving future competitiveness.

Existing engineering capabilities, based on sequential approaches and extensive physical testing, are incapable of delivering the accelerating complexities of future product. This fundamental shortfall is common across all sectors, and is driven by increasing customer, environmental and legislative demands. Advanced engineering businesses, and their supply chains, must transform in order to compete. Amplifying the challenge, the definition of regulatory frameworks and subsequent compliance and in-service monitoring is matched in complexity. Natural evolution will fall significantly short of expectation. A fundamental transformation of the product engineering process is essential to achieving future competitiveness. Key to success will be the fusion of advanced digital technologies with best-in-class product engineering capabilities to deliver physical resource intensive processes in a digital environment. Higher resolution, faster and cheaper!


The first 3 Industrial Revolutions were forged in the UK by harnessing our sovereign might in science, innovation and engineering. As we seek to define our post-Brexit identity in a global market where protectionism is a growing reality, embracing our rich national digital landscape and re-asserting our innovation and engineering capabilities should sit at the heart of the 4th Industrial Revolution and our Industrial Strategy.


We must engage the next generation of engineers within a co-ordinated programme of engineering capability development...

If we are to succeed though, the Government, automotive sector, technology sectors, research establishments and academia must all work together. This means bringing digitalisation to the forefront of the Government’s new industrial strategy and working in partnership to ensure we grasp the opportunities this technological shift presents. We must engage the next generation of engineers within a co-ordinated programme of engineering capability development. We must exploit innovative ways for knowledge capture and user engagement to ensure that an appropriate workforce is available to secure a resilient capability. By doing this, we can help to ensure that the UK positions itself as progressive and innovative, and accelerates its inherent global competitiveness.


It is time to re-assert our Sovereign capability of product innovation and engineering and once again make it the sustainable engine room of our economy.


Bradley Yorke-Biggs, CEO & Professor of Practice, IDE




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