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How the IIoT can improve UK industrial productivity

06 June 2018

Back in February, Mark Bottomley, UK Sales Director, Rockwell Automation, blogged about UK industry and asked if it was ready to adapt to the turbulence of an era of change. In this piece, he looks at what he believes is a significant tipping point in IIoT adoption here in the UK.

In my February blog I made one solid prediction for 2017; that come November, Lewis Hamilton will have taken his British-built Mercedes to the F1 World Championship title.

At the time of writing, and to my immense relief, Lewis is sitting comfortably at the top of the driver’s standings, and I’m happy to say that he‘s in an excellent position to prove me right.

As with my other observations from the February blog though, it’s fair to say it hasn’t all been plain sailing, and the final result is still far from certain.

Building on the theme of potential success, I’d like to focus this blog on what I believe is a significant tipping point in IIoT adoption here in the UK.

From my conversations with customers and thought leaders, I believe the debate about IIoT, or Industry 4.0 as it’s sometimes known, is now over – companies now realise they have to adapt to a digitally connected manufacturing environment or be left behind by their global competition.

One of our responsibilities at Rockwell Automation is to help our customers understand how best to start this journey so that they can make faster progress toward a new and more productive era of industry.

We’ve had some fantastic results along the way. One particularly good example comes from the automotive sector, that famous bell-weather for UK industrial activity.

In a highly competitive market, manufacturers are often reticent to allow us to speak too openly about the technologies that we help them introduce into their production processes, so it was great to see mention of our work with JLR as reported by EMEA Director Thomas Donato in his recent blog here.

It’s also great to see an uplifting case study for how productivity – an increasingly hot topic in UK economics of late – has been improved at Toyota’s Derbyshire site as they ramp up production of their Auris and Avensis models here in the UK.

The solution was a mixture of flexible planning and forward thinking on behalf of the plant managers at Toyota, alongside systems integrators and the Rockwell Automation team. The project was delivered within the two-week window of the summer shut-down on site.

For a factory that operates 24/7 when it is online, being able to deliver a project on this scale without causing extended or unplanned downtime was extremely valuable and resulted in an ever-welcome boost to productivity.

The Toyota project is just one of many examples of UK projects that show how industry partnerships can contribute to improved productivity, and it should also be noted that industry is not the only sector making a positive contribution to UK productivity.

The most important takeaway from all of these good news stories is that industry has the opportunity to help the UK to be much more productive, and it is through IIoT implementation that we’ll see the biggest step-change.

And that brings me to my closing thoughts on UK industrial productivity for now. In a blog about productivity, it would be remiss of me not to mention skills.

I was interested to read a piece in the Financial Times recently saying that more should be done to help promote vocational qualifications in order to help boost productivity outside of London and the South East.

This is a topic very close to my heart, and I’m extremely proud of the excellent vocational training opportunities offered by Rockwell Automation. There are, I believe, strides being made in the right direction here – namely the changes around the apprenticeship levy for in-work training.

While this scheme shows the intent to support skills development, it really does fall upon UK industrial leaders to do more to increase and improve the skills of our most important assets – our employees.

We often talk about IIoT being about bringing people, processes and technology together, and as we enter the implementation era it is the people who hold the UK’s potential in their hands – so let’s make sure we are investing in them.

When Lewis Hamilton’s pit crew tell him it’s Hammer Time he knows it’s time for him to push on for the win. In terms of the IIoT in UK industry, Hammer Time is now well and truly upon us.

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