The Industry 4.0 revolution is blurring the line between the physical and virtual worlds, forcing manufacturers to accelerate their digital modernisation journeys. With the sector facing the possibility of a third recession in the space of a decade, the future of manufacturing holds both serious threats and significant opportunities.
A recent research report from PwC finds that Germany intends to invest 3.3 per cent of its turnover in Industry 4.0 initiatives over the next five years, and expects to grow its revenues in the sector by 12.5 per cent. With a manufacturing industry four times the size of the UK's, Germany is the manufacturing hub of Europe, and is investing seven times more in automating its systems.
According to Nitin Rakesh, CEO and President of leading digital modernization firm Syntel, the key for UK manufacturers to keep pace with their counterparts on the continent is to accelerate their Industry 4.0 investments by modernising and implementing 'smart' machines that can communicate as a unified manufacturing network.
"The biggest pain of the manufacturing industry is that many companies are still relying heavily on legacy systems," said Rakesh. "Though some have migrated to ERP systems based on SAP, Java and Oracle, manufacturers still need to modernise their underlying computing platforms in order to give them the greater responsiveness and real-time visibility required to service the demands of the digital customer."
His company, Syntel, offers a suite of legacy modernisation services that enable companies to migrate and consolidate disparate or 'siloed' systems onto unified modern platforms, improving backend performance and reducing support costs by as much as 30 per cent.
Rakesh states that by virtue of long histories in business, manufacturers also possess valuable troves of customer, product and sales data, much of which may be essentially trapped in aging legacy databases that are inaccessible by modern data analysis tools.
"The insights contained in historical manufacturing data can hold the key to make enterprises more efficient and more proactive to meeting customer demands," said Rakesh. "In addition, manufacturers are now leveraging embedded sensors that transmit data back to the home base."
Syntel assists manufacturers with implementing Big Data solutions that enable clients to read, interpret and analyse huge volumes of data in order to predict future trends, optimize manufacturing operations, and avoid critical equipment failures that can cause costly delays in production or delivery.
"Manufacturers in the UK must carefully plan their future technology initiatives to serve a new generation of customers that expects 'anytime, anywhere' access to services and information," said Rakesh.
"By implementing modern systems and utilising Industry 4.0 techniques like Big Data analysis, manufacturers can implement the improved control and visibility into their enterprises to succeed now and well into the future."