Delivering business value with smart manufacturing

Guy Denis
14 November, 22

Manufacturing is at a transformation point. As the ninth largest manufacturing nation by the value of GDP, the UK still has global reach and impact. Manufacturers have a desire for change, to reap the benefits of digitalisation and Industry 4.0 and to evolve traditional manufacturing with adaptive manufacturing. This trend is supported by a recent research report, which found that 96% of companies are using at least one next-generation technology.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Multiple challenges face UK manufacturing and are driving necessary change. For example, with rising costs and depleting reserves, energy optimisation is a critical focus for manufacturers. An overdependency on non-UK sources is also a factor and many companies are rapidly adapting to use other localised power sources like renewables.

Bosch is working closely with leading UK manufacturers to enable their adoption of this rapidly changing technology landscape to benefit from Industry 4.0 and IoT, as well as to offset some of the issues created by a global marketplace. Some of the key areas of involvement include:

  • Modernisation and investment – Manufacturing has been slow to adopt technologies that would enable competitiveness, agility, flexibility, market leadership and future-proofing.
  • Workforce challenges – A talent shortage combined with the loss of experienced workers (over 50’s) has created a void. Younger “generation Z” workforce skills in coding and gaming technology are not being leveraged or sufficiently recognised as potential assets. For reference, the vacancy rate in the manufacturing sector is the highest ever since ONS records began standing at 3.7% in October 2021 (vs average 1.8%).
  • Lack of integration between IT and operations –This results in stranded assets, manual dependency, low productivity, poor quality, and overcomplicated processes.
  • Overextended assets – Machinery and equipment are being used beyond their planned operational life cycle and the adoption of new automation, robots and drones has been slow.
  • Overdependency on offshore investment – Depending on non-UK corporate HQs such as Ford USA, Nestle Switzerland and Toyota Japan, leaves local manufacturers in a potentially vulnerable position.
  • Cost of manufacturing – Manufacturing costs in the UK are comparatively higher than in other regions and nearshore alternatives like the Czech Republic.
  • Brexit impact – The impact on supply chains, cost of raw materials, import duties, workforce access, export order book and investor confidence continues to present issues.
  • Covid Impact – Continues to present challenges in supply chains, R&D, and production.
  • Changing geopolitical landscape – The Ukraine war has created a rapidly changing environment, disrupting the movement and accessibility of raw materials and goods.
  • Evolving technologies – The pace at which technologies are evolving is a challenge to keep up with, for example, the development of hydrogen engines.
  • Consumer-driven market dynamics – Keeping current with new trends from consumers such as mass customisation, healthier eating and environmentally-friendly products.

The Role of Digitalisation and Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 is the connection of people, processes and assets through information and communication technologies. Implementing intelligent solutions in production and logistics enables optimisation within factories and ultimately improves competitiveness in manufacturing. By embedding advanced data-generating and processing software into production facilities, organisations can evolve into smart connected factories. This increases productivity, quality and energy efficiency while helping to develop value-added, outcome-based measurable results and creates new, profitable business models toward sustainable manufacturing.

Manufacturers are at different stages of digitalisation adoption and development. Some are yet to start and as a result, Industry 4.0 standardisation can be difficult to implement. For example, many UK manufacturers have multiple vendors for equipment, automation systems and software which inflicts a heavy burden on time, money, productivity and quality in supporting the operation of non-standardised systems.

There has been a long-term sector-wide lack of sharing best practices among manufacturing companies, despite there being much to learn from each other. With this in mind, Bosch has undergone a program of connecting its own 270 factories and 700 warehouses worldwide first, with the aim of sharing proven practical experience with customers following successful validation. Some of the key areas where Bosch has demonstrable proof points include:

Energy Management

Sustainability is a common agenda and challenge within the sector with several manufacturers making the statement to be completely carbon neutral by 2030 globally despite huge legacy issues. Tracking and visualisation of energy usage within a factory including intelligent algorithms to lower energy costs is a way how the Bosch plant in Homburg has reduced energy costs by about 12 million euros in total with a total amortisation time of under 1.5 years.

Human-Robot Collaboration

As an example, the UK adoption of automation, robot and drone technology has been relatively slow. Greater use of automation enables companies to increase productivity as well as speed up the production process, resulting in significant cost savings. This has been applied in Bosch’s Nuremberg plant where collaborative robots have been implemented to combine human capabilities alongside the robot’s strengths such as precision, power, speed and repeatability.

Production Improvement

To better integrate IT with operations, the Bosch plant in Blaichach cyclically evaluates new Industry 4.0 solutions along the production value stream and includes suitable solutions in its portfolio. The application supplements existing solutions with respect to the visualisation and evaluation of real-time data. This results in full transparency, increased efficiency and cost savings.

The Future of Manufacturing

Example operational benefits like 90% lower expenditure over manual data collection and a 15% increase in productivity, make it clear that Industry 4.0 brings measurable success and solutions to manufacturing sector challenges. Industry 4.0 is here, is real, and if organisations come together to define and apply Industry 4.0 concepts processes and standards it will be to the advantage of all.

Bosch benefits from its own experience in numerous use cases and will be happy to share.

Guy’s contact details are: Guy DenisSoftware and Digital Services, Sales Europe (SDS/SAM-EU)
Robert Bosch Ltd | Broadwater Park | North Orbital Road | Denham | UB9 5HJ | UNITED KINGDOM |
Tel. +44 1895 83-8616 | [email protected]

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