There is currently a general understanding that Industry 4.0 refers to the “digitalisation” of a business’s infrastructure, but there has yet to be any consistent standards or definitions applied to what remains an arguably vague concept for businesses worldwide.
Yet, what is becoming clear is that Industry 4.0 will fundamentally define how a country such as the UK does business within the next five to ten years.
The difficulty lies in the UK’s understanding of what Industry 4.0 actually is. Even its epithet – the Fourth Industrial Revolution – is provoking serious debate, with many arguing that it is not a “revolution”, but a logical evolution from the implementation of electronics-led automation, which largely defined the third industrial revolution.
All manufacturing companies, whether large or small, are under constant pressure from their customers for their products to be better quality, lower cost and available quicker. Industry 4.0 should be seen by manufacturers as an umbrella term for a toolkit of available technology to enable them to deliver these customer requirements.
Barriers to Industry 4.0 implementation
Governments around the world are creating strategies and policies to encourage the adoption of digitalised manufacturing, from the USA’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, to Germany’s High-Tech Strategy 2020 Action Plan. The real indicator of Industry 4.0 success, however, is the rate at which individual companies embrace a digital, software-based framework as part of their own strategy. Despite the excitement and increased media coverage, this is progressing more slowly than hoped – especially in the UK.
“The Big Bang”
The media hype around Industry 4.0 has certainly helped to disseminate the message across UK industry, but this has also created a sense of urgency and panic. It has also had the somewhat unintended effect of an all-or-nothing mentality among businesses, particularly SMEs.
A complete digital overhaul, no matter the size of the business, is an enormous task that would prove difficult for even the most resourced businesses to undertake. It is vital that businesses understand such an approach is unnecessary, and may actually be hampering any possibility of moving forwards with an Industry 4.0 strategy.
A concern for many will be the feasibility of scaling digital technologies to match that of their current operations. The suitability of one’s manufacturing environment to Industry 4.0 will certainly vary from business to business, but many manufacturers remain unaware that a range of technologies exist to support the digitalisation of their infrastructure, without the need to replace existing equipment.
The cost of implementation
Whether the business holds an “all-or-nothing” or “one-size-fits-all” mentality, cost will remain a primary concern. While several reports have highlighted a willingness in industry to invest, there remain some doubts over the affordability of certain Industry 4.0-based technologies, as well as the cost of training and/or hiring staff. Furthermore there is currently limited data available to demonstrate the return on investment of Industry 4.0.
It is important to remember that Industry 4.0 does not just refer to technologies within automation, cloud or Edge computing and data sharing. It also encapsulates organisational restructuring – moving from a physical to a digital infrastructure within a more collaborative, data-reliant environment.
This, therefore, requires each employee at an individual level to change his mindset and adopt one that is, not only open to change, but open to the concepts that Industry 4.0 embodies
Step-by-step approach
The best way to implement Industry 4.0 is through a gradual process. This means prioritising the areas in which digitalisation would offer the most benefit, such as improving productivity or levels of quality and consistency.
A step-by-step approach is arguably the best way to implement and adopt digital manufacturing, enabling businesses to expand Industry 4.0 capabilities by building on its initial digitalised capabilities. The advantage being that the solid foundations of technology, infrastructure and skills can be laid, facilitating the final move into the so-called “Factory of the Future”.
As a useful guide to gradual adoption the following three-step approach for Industry 4.0 integration can be used:
1. The implementation of sensors and controls;
2. Enhancing the capabilities of these sensors;
3. Full implementation, in which Industry 4.0 capabilities are rolled out at plant-level.
To download a full copy of the report, A practical roadmap for the implementation of Industry 4.0 and to find out more about how Bosch Rexroth can assist in your Industry 4.0 journey, please visit: [URL]
Come and speak to our Bosch Rexroth product experts on stand H10 to see how your company can effectively implement Industry 4.0 (for Industry 4.0 summit only)
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Economical, precise, safe, and energy efficient: drive and control technology from Bosch Rexroth moves machines and systems of any size. The company bundles global application experience in the market segments of Mobile Applications, Machinery Applications and Engineering, and Factory Automation to develop innovative components as well as tailored system solutions and services. Bosch Rexroth offers its customers hydraulics, electric drives and controls, gear technology, and linear motion and assembly technology all from one source. With locations in over 80 countries, more than 29,500 associates generated sales revenue of approximately 5 billion euros in 2016.
To learn more, please visit www.boschrexroth.com
In the UK, Bosch has been present since 1898, when Robert Bosch opened the company’s first office outside Germany. Every one of the Bosch Group’s business sectors has a presence in the UK: Mobility Solutions, Consumer Goods, Energy and Building Technology and Industrial Technology. Bosch operates in the UK as Robert Bosch Limited and employs around 5,300 associates across 41 sites. In 2016, Bosch generated revenues in the UK of 3.9 billion euros.
The Bosch Group is a leading global supplier of technology and services. It employs roughly 390,000 associates worldwide (as of 31 December 2016). The company generated sales of 73.1 billion euros in 2016. Its operations are divided into four business sectors: Mobility Solutions, Industrial Technology, Consumer Goods, and Energy and Building Technology. As a leading IoT company, Bosch offers innovative solutions for smart homes, smart cities, connected mobility, and connected manufacturing. It uses its expertise in sensor technology, software, and services, as well as its own IoT cloud, to offer its customers connected, cross-domain solutions from a single source. The Bosch Group’s strategic objective is to deliver innovations for a connected life. Bosch improves quality of life worldwide with products and services that are innovative and spark enthusiasm. In short, Bosch creates technology that is “Invented for life.” The Bosch Group comprises Robert Bosch GmbH and its roughly 440 subsidiaries and regional companies in some 60 countries. Including sales and service partners, Bosch’s global manufacturing and sales network covers nearly every country in the world. The basis for the company’s future growth is its innovative strength. At 120 locations across the globe, Bosch employs some 59,000 associates in research and development.
The company was set up in Stuttgart in 1886 by Robert Bosch (1861-1942) as “Workshop for Precision Mechanics and Electrical Engineering.” The special ownership structure of Robert Bosch GmbH guarantees the entrepreneurial freedom of the Bosch Group, making it possible for the company to plan over the long term and to undertake significant upfront investments in the safeguarding of its future. Ninety-two percent of the share capital of Robert Bosch GmbH is held by Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH, a charitable foundation. The majority of voting rights are held by Robert Bosch Industrietreuhand KG, an industrial trust. The entrepreneurial ownership functions are carried out by the trust. The remaining shares are held by the Bosch family and by Robert Bosch GmbH.
Additional information is available online at www.bosch.co.uk.
You can also find Bosch UK on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BoschUK and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BoschUK.
For press enquiries please contact:
Stuart Haynes, Nicole Laffan or Emily Cosgrove at Willoughby PR
Tel: +44 (0) 121 456 3004
Fax: +44 (0) 121 456 9300
E-mail: stuart@wpragency.co.uk, nicolel@wpragency.co.uk or emily@wpragency.co.uk

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