Ignorance 4.0? UK manufacturing and engineering competitiveness at risk from lack of knowledge

Apr 19, 2018, 10:55 AM by Poliana Sperandio
  • Research shows that more than half or UK manufacturers / engineering businesses don’t know what Industry 4.0 is
  • Yet simulation, automation, robotics and 3D printing dominates manufacturing investment


Subcon 2018, NEC, Birmingham, 5-7 June 2018, www.subconshow.co.uk

London UK, April 2018: Widespread ignorance of Industry 4.0 threatens to derail the competitiveness of UK manufacturing and engineering, according to figures released today by The Engineer in association with Subcon, the defining event in the manufacturing supply chain calendar.

When asked if they understood what industry 4.0 is, more than one in three (37%) UK manufacturing and engineering professionals said no, with a further 19% unsure.  Even amongst those that answered positively, only 23% were certain that they had a handle on the concept with a further 22% positive but not sure.

However, the survey did reveal that even without high levels of confidence in their understanding of Industry 4.0, UK manufacturers and engineering businesses were investing in the technologies associated with the fourth industrial revolution.

Looking at the past 12 months:

  • Nearly half (46%) have invested in simulation and CAD modelling technologies
  • 36% have invested in automation and robotics
  • 28% have invested in 3D printing
  • 23% have invested in cyber-physical systems and the Internet of Things.

Looking ahead to the next year:

  • Automation and robotics leads the charge with 34% of respondents planning investment
  • 27% plan on investing in simulation and modelling in the next year
  • 24% plan on investing in 3D printing.

“Looking at these figures, it is clear that UK engineering and manufacturing businesses understand the benefits of new technology, even if they don’t quite get the buzzwords,’ said Gordon Kirk, event director, Subcon. “This investment is being driven by the competitive issues of new product development and improving design and production processes.”

“The question that follows is whether or not these investments are delivering everything they could do.  The educational programme at Subcon will help these businesses put their investment in context. This year we have a 36-session conference programme based over two theatres and Industry 4.0 and the development of digital manufacturing technologies forms a key part of the subject matter.  We anticipate a lot of conversations around these technologies as businesses need to find out how to put their investments to work in creating competitive advantage.”

The survey of more than 500 UK manufacturing and engineering professionals was carried out by Subcon and leading industry trade magazine The Engineer. Subcon is the UK’s premier manufacturing supply chain show, taking place 5-7 June 2018 at NEC, Birmingham. Visitors can register for a free pass at www.subconshow.co.uk

Survey questions

Do you understand what Industry 4.0 is?                   

No                                                                                36.5%

Yes, definitely                                                              22.5%

Yes, I think so                                                              22.3%

Not sure                                                                       18.8%


Which of the following technologies have you invested in, in the past 12 months? Please tick all that apply           

Simulation and CAD modelling                                   45.5%

Automation / Robotics                                                 35.6%

3D printing capabilities                                                27.9%

New or enhanced enterprise software                          27.5%

Internet of Things / cyber-physical technology            22.9%

None of these                                                               18.5%

Other please specify                                                    6.6%

I don’t know                                                                 3.8%


Which of the following do you plan to invest in over the next 12 months? Please tick all that apply 

Automation / Robotics                                                 34.2%

Simulation and CAD modelling                                   27.2%

3D printing capabilities                                                23.8%

New or enhanced enterprise software                          23.6%

Internet of Things / cyber-physical technology            22.1%

None of the above                                                        18.7%

I don't know                                                                 14.0%

Other, please specify                                                   4.5%

Subcon is the UK’s only dedicated event for contract and subcontract manufacturing. It covers all sectors and technologies and allows subcontract manufacturing buyers to source suppliers, benchmark capabilities, and form new manufacturing partnerships.

A pass to Subcon gives visitors free access to The Engineer Expo, a brand new event dedicated to providing UK engineering professionals with the latest in-house manufacturing and design solutions, and Automechanika Birmingham.