Taking advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Taking advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

16 April 2018

Kieron Salter, Managing Director of high performance engineering consultancy KWSP, believes there are simple ways engineers can gear up for the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) without incurring heavy overheads or experiencing mass disruption.

“Being part of the Silverstone Technology Cluster allows the companies involved to see developments in technology, as well as experience first-hand how the fourth industrial revolution is shaping the manufacturing process; moving everyone towards a more digitised economy.

“To many engineering companies, 4IR represents a huge business challenge. Many are deterred by the perceived costs involved in digitising capital equipment, while others believe that to successfully transition they need to completely overhaul their production processes, suffering downtime in the process.

“However 4IR need not be a major overhaul operation. There are many small changes manufacturing businesses can make to improve efficiency, boost productivity and transition towards a leaner future…

“One example of this working in practice involves the more accurate deposition of industrial adhesives to a complex component, which is made of several different parts.

“In this example, digitisation has improved accuracy, reduced failure rates and significantly cut down on material use. The digital controls have also allowed for a boost in productivity.

“This becomes even more of an opportunity when you consider that recent figures from the Engineering Employers’ Federation (EEF) show that just 11 percent of manufacturers think that UK industry is ready to take advantage of 4IR.

“Furthermore statistics from PwC state that UK companies are planning to invest on average seven times less than their German counterparts into 4IR over the next five years.

“Another example of where digitisation can enhance traditional production process can be seen in screen printing, a process typically used to apply adhesives to laminated bonded parts, particularly in the manufacture of automotive windscreens and kitchen worktops.

“Replacing this with a digital process allows you to print only where the adhesive is needed. It therefore cuts down on material use and provides endless opportunities for personalised products and flexible manufacturing processes.

“Digitisation can also be used to improve accuracy and reduce waste during the development of products that have complex material compositions. For example, one component may consist of several different materials, each having undergone their own unique manufacturing process, before being bonded in a relatively uncontrolled way, resulting in a fair amount of wastage.

“A digitised solution would be to manufacture the entire component via 3D printing.

“Another would be to automate the adhesive deposition required to bond the parts together in a precise and controlled way, resulting in a reduction in material wastage and ensuring an accurate bond every time.

“This simple process change is relatively easy to make and does not require huge set-up costs or an overhaul of existing business processes.

“4IR can appear like a major business transformation but, like most long-term business improvements, it begins by making small marginal gains.

“By taking a phased approach to digitisation and adding technology only where it adds value, more engineering businesses can make the transition to a more productive and automated future.”

About Kieron Salter
Kieron Salter is the Managing Director of Brackley based company KWSP which specialises in solving a wide range of engineering challenges via its adoption of horizontal innovation principles. After completing an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering at Oxford Polytechnic (now Oxford Brookes University) in 1993 he went on to notable success as a designer and engineer in motorsport (touring cars, Le Mans, Indycars) and automotive with companies including Creation Autosportif, Nasamax, McLaren and Reynard. A business entrepreneur, Kieron launched KWSP in 2012 – launched to exploit the successful technology transfer from motorsport to other sectors. He is also a Champion of the Silverstone Technology Cluster’s Digital/Advanced Manufacturing special interest group.