The UK is badly underprepared for Industry 4.0, according to a new report published by Eriks this week.

The report, titled ‘Is the UK ready for Industry 4.0?  Industrial maintenance in a connected world of Big Data’, reveals that 61 per cent of UK engineers are not currently undertaking any form of Industry 4.0 initiatives, despite the fact that the vast majority (80 per cent) believe it will have a positive effect on their production and maintenance practices.

The report highlights several major barriers to the implementation of Industry 4.0 in the UK, including security concerns, a lack of understanding of its potential benefits, particularly among senior managers, and an unwillingness to share data with third party maintenance suppliers or OEMs, which could facilitate more progressive maintenance practices, such as remote condition monitoring.

In fact, the results suggest that 79 per cent of organisations would offer limited or no disclosure of their data, despite 56 per cent admitting that they needed support from an OEM or third party to use their data for machine diagnosis.

Gary Price, international product manager, automation and services at Eriks Group, said: “These results suggest that UK industry is badly underprepared. Seemingly industry is fully aware that it has a data collection and analysis deficit, but is unwilling or unable to engage with its industrial supply chain in order to get help. In effect, the experts – who could help design the sensing systems, collect and analyse data which could revolutionise industrial maintenance and bring forward tactics, such as predictive maintenance and condition monitoring – are being kept at arms-length.”

The report also highlights concerns about an age gap in UK manufacturing, with senior managers less likely than their younger counterparts to have a full understanding of the benefits of Industry 4.0 and a willingness to share their data. Only 15 per cent of over 55s would allow full disclosure of machinery or production with OEMs compared to 34 per cent of 25-33 year olds.

What’s more, 72 per cent of 25-34 year olds believe they need the support of the OEM manufacturer to use data for machine diagnosis or fault-finding, compared to only 35 per cent of over 55s.

Price said: “There is a real age gap developing because the older generation of engineers, many of whom hold very senior positions in UK industry, appear to be more sceptical and more risk averse. Conversely, the younger generation of engineers understands that it needs the support of external suppliers and is much more willing to share data.

“We are also concerned with the age gap demonstrated by this report.  Industry 4.0 is moving quickly, but the senior generation appears to be more sceptical and more risk averse.”

He added: “Industry 4.0 offers extraordinary opportunities for industry to connect with its supply chain and use its capabilities. We must take this opportunity to connect industry and the industrial supply chain in order for UK manufacturing to become more productive, more efficient and more competitive.”