Manufacturing is changing. It needs high speed, high quality internet connectivity to enable its use of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
These include automated manufacture by robots, the use of real-time information to enhance processes and make product development faster, and the use of virtual simulations of the manufacturing and design processes.
Collectively these are among the characteristics of the fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0 (Industrie 4.0 in Germany), for which high quality digital infrastructure is crucial.
The manufacturer’s organisation EEF says 91 percent of manufacturers in the UK say a high speed internet connection is as essential to business as electricity and water. It says that 48 percent of firms use internet connected objects such as sensors or automated machines at least once a week and 55 percent need the internet for resource planning every day.
This sits alongside EEF data showing 80 percent of manufacturers say Industry 4.0 will be a business reality by 2025.
The financial prize is significant. A report published last year by Accenture says that by 2030 the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) could be worth $531 billion (£370 billion) to the UK, and $700 billion (£487 billion) to Germany.
Chris Richards, senior business environment policy adviser at EEF told Internet of Business that if UK manufacturing is to hold its own in the IIoT world, the quality of the digital infrastructure underpinning it needs to improve – and fast.
Investment needed in IIoT
“Things will need to turn around in the next five years. Our survey showed that around 62 percent of manufacturers are planning to invest more in internet connected capital equipment, as part of industry 4.0, over that time period. Previous EEF surveys have also shown that manufacturers expect Industry 4.0 to be a business reality by 2025. So we need to take action now to pave the way for that investment.”
The EEF says that 50 percent of companies say their internet upload and download speeds are fast enough for their needs but 22 percent say it is too slow, and many are paying a premium for the services they get: a third have invested in a dedicated leased line, and more than a third spend over £5,000 a year on internet connections.
When asked how that 50 percent figure might grow if internet infrastructure provision doesn’t develop Richards replied: “If things don’t change, realistically, we are looking at manufacturers scouting for other locations to make industry 4.0 investments. So I would say it would be less about how that figure grows and more about whether or not the UK is seen as a competitive location at all in the future.”
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