During the recent Manufacturing Week 2019, our managing director Mike Maddock was interviewed by the High-Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult about Industry 4.0 & other current industry challenges.
Below is a transcript of the interview;
What one technology do you think will have the most impact on manufacturing?
I’m going to say graphene, because it’s a transformational material. It’s still in its evolution process with nano-platelets, but the market is moving forward. Many people think it’s probably a technology for 15 to 20 years’ time, but it’s not, it’s here now.
In terms of graphene, to put it in simple terms, it’s 200 times stronger than steel so that gives you a good starting point. Also, it has the world’s greatest level of electronic or electrical and thermal conductivity, so it’s going to readily revolutionise the marketplace and potentially push Industry 5.0, never mind 4.0.
What’s the most unusual application for the latest manufacturing technologies that you know of?
That’s a really interesting one and I’m going to have to go with graphene again, even though there’s so many applications we can talk about.
One of the applications of graphene in terms of nanoplate and powder form is that it has been put into concrete. A 0.03% additive of graphene into concrete is making a 40% strength improvement, so you can either reduce the amount of concrete that you’re going to produce, or you can make buildings 40% stronger.
If you look at it in terms of carbon footprints, concrete is the second most-produced material in the world, and if you adopted the graphene concrete globally you would save 2% of the world’s carbon footprint.What one challenge will the manufacturing sector have to overcome in the next 10 years?
One of the many issues we have is connectivity and the alignment of future skills to technology. The clue there is skills. Its skills and skills and skills. It’s so important.
We do just about have the infrastructure. The UK I think is running behind on 4IR, but we don’t have the people or the individuals to underpin that. We don’t have the training strategies in place for the future and I think it’s a really important that we need to align that.
The demographic changes over the next 20 years of the population mean we’re going to have an aging population, so we need to upskill and retrain the people within our systems and the structure. The human capital approach is equally important.
How do we overcome that challenge?
We need to have a robust investment strategy into education skills right across the board, really focusing on not only IQ (intelligence quotient) but also EQ (emotional quotient).
Every time we go to an event, in making a case for what are the biggest challenges industry faces, people say skills. Then we get back to the fact that we’ve been talking about skills for the last 20 years. The speed of technology is moving every three months, never mind every year, so we need to understand how we take that forward.
Therefore, the strategy is crucially important. Upscaling the older population with new technologies and supporting the digital population, as in the younger demographic coming in, to make sure that UK PLC can move forward and apply all the technologies that are running in parallel.
Do you think the sector is prepared for the digital manufacturing revolution, and why?
No, absolutely not. There are two parts to that answer. Number one, which is the fundamental one is we’re just not aligned and don’t understanding cybersecurity. For us to move forward into the digital age we need to protect ourselves
We need look at the potential for being hacked and the need to protect UK plc. Currently, we’re not in that position so you look at Cyber Essentials, bringing companies in line. Some larger organisations are exposed because of their supply chain, who aren’t aligning to the cyber model, so there’s a lot to be done. That’s a big red flag and a danger.
Secondly back to the skills. We’re not educating people. We’re not making people aware. I think whilst industry especially in terms of the digital software and hardware are moving ahead, we’re leaving the smaller organisations behind. Whilst the larger organisations have the cash and the ability to invest, with many small organisations there is an incorrect assumption that 4.0 is going to cost them a fortune, and a lot of time and therefore they won’t adopt it.
Find out more about the High-Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult.