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What is Industry 4.0, and what are the barriers for its adoption?

Dr Farzaneh Hafezi
5 December 2019

Digital transformation in Manufacturing& Beyond, workshop, Bay Campus Swansea university 30th October 2019

Industry 4.0 describes a fundamental change: it combines traditional production methods with state-of-the-art information and communication technology. Intelligent, digitally networked systems will enable self-managing production processes possible and improve both efficiency and quality. A major consideration for the manufacturing sector is how to prepare for the future now.

The central idea of the 4th Industrial Revolution is to develop decentralized production models where products, materials and machines can communicate with each other in real-time and make decisions to drive optimal production. The key enabling technology of Industry 4.0 are the so called Cyber-physical systems. These are physical entities equipped with some computing, communication and control capabilities. Cyber-physical systems can store and exchange information and request or provide services over the Internet. To embed these computerisation, industry and academia need to collaborate to co-create solutions and innovate by building trustworthy systems.

Organised by Swansea University on 30th October 2019, the ‘Digital Transformation in Manufacturing & Beyond’ workshop saw participants from academia and industry, including Ford, Tata Steel and Crown Technology, and was a fantastic opportunity to discuss the drivers and barriers in using Industry 4.0.

Lots of barriers have been discussed as reasons for the slow adoption of Industry 4.0 concepts on shop floors, for example lack of knowledge about technology, costs, lack of in-house talent, data ownership or lack of unified leadership. However, the most important factor which has been identified is human fear.

Some employees may be worried of losing their job role to computerization, and as you can see in photo, the fear factor has been the main focus for most industries. What could be the solution to such a barrier? The discussions within the groups of industry and academia demonstrated that the ideal solution is threefold:

  • Educate employees, inform them of any changes and any skills they may be required to learn.
  • Trust in human responsibilities.
  • Most importantly, make sure employees feel safe and included in a collaborative process.

METaL is a work-based learning project that focusses on technical training modules to address skills shortages and provide industry with the skills required. Should you have an interest in such a course i.e. explaining the fundamentals of Industry 4.0 please let us know by following the link here.

Read more on: ‘Drivers and Barriers in Using Industry 4.0: A Perspective of SMEs in Romania’