The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) or Industry 4.0

What is 4IR or Industry 4.0?

This is possibly a little obvious but 4IR or Industry 4.0 is the fourth major Industrial Revolution since the last one in the 1970’s.

The First Industrial Revolution dating back to the 18th Century saw the introduction of mechanical production powered by Water and Steam, predominantly with the invention of the steam locomotive and steam ships reducing transportation times. Towards the end of the 19th Century came the Second Revolution which saw production move to electrical power, this included automated factory lines to enable mass production. The rise of motoring and increased use of the railway led to faster transportation as well as advancements in technology with the telephone, phonograph and the internal combustion engine!

The Third revolution or the “Digital Revolution” was in the late 70’s with automated robots, control systems, personal computers, computer aided design/ICT and not forgetting the creation of the Internet! (Can we remember life without the Wi-Fi symbol?!)

Now Industry 4.0 builds on this Digital Revolution and we will see the coming together of cyber networks with physical networks, to create autonomous systems to boost levels of productivity or “Smart Factories”. It will radically change the way we design, produce and use manufactured goods.

We will see breakthroughs in fields such as robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, cloud computing, Biotechnology, The Internet of Things (IoT) and autonomous vehicles (yes, ones that drive themselves!)

The World Economic Forum provides a brief presentation about the fourth industrial revolution, an eye opening 11-minute documentary in which it shows that we are experiencing dramatic changes in the above-mentioned fields at an exponential speed –

There is also a great section on the EEF’s website, including two webinars on what manufacturers should be doing and how manufacturers can upgrade processes with 4IR.

The first one covering the conception phase and the second one covering he evolution phase.

What will 4IR mean?

With Brexit, almost upon us, the UK needs to work harder to remain competitive Globally and UK manufacturers need a way to increase their business resilience in these difficult times, therefore, SME engagement in Industry 4.0 is imperative for the economic prosperity of the UK.

Manufacturers have raised concerns about 4IR in terms of confusion, resource concerns, uncertain benefits and the language of 4IR, all of which create key barriers for SMEs:

  • There is a lack of a common understanding of definitions and standards
  • There is no common glossary of terms readily available
  • “Where do we start?”
  • “Where and When can I see it?”
  • “What is the Government doing?”


The biggest concerns facing companies digitizing their manufacturing processes include:

  1. Systems and its integration is the single biggest digital challenge.
  2. Identification of new business models for vendors to make software more accessible by manufacturing SMEs allowing them to embrace 4IR.
  3. Building competence and confidence within the company.
  4. Fit for Digital. Companies of any size need to be in a fit state to benefit from adopting new technologies (machines or software). Failure to do so will compromise predicted benefits and productivity gains, rendering a high Return Of Investment an almost unachievable ambition.
  5. Access to easily accessible specialist, localised programmes to help manufacturers navigate this complicated landscape and find a result that is tailored for them.
  6. Support to help manufacturers understand the terminology generated through 4IR.


The areas that Manufacturers will gain from significant benefit by focusing their resources for digitisation include:

  • Factory floor and production systems
  • Additive manufacturing
  • Industrial Internet of Things
  • Sensors
  • Systems integration
  • Digitally assisted assembly
  • Robotics and automation
  • Simulation
  • Cyber security
  • Flexible manufacturing
  • 3D Visualisation
  • Digital processes
  • Predictive maintenance
  • Energy and water efficiency

The Rt. Hon. Matt Hancock MP (Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport) made an All Party Parliamentary Speech on 16/10/17 in which he stated the importance of needing a “full spectrum skills response” and therefore Coding is now in place in the curriculum in schools from age 8. He goes on to say that “we’re taking steps to cement our position as a world leader in future technologies of full fibre and 5G through the £740 million of funding from the National Productivity Investment Fund that the Chancellor announced last year” – read his whole speech here:

In conclusion:

So, the 4th Industrial Revolution can offer many opportunities for companies to improve productivity, quality and reduce costs in manufacturing.

Hobut promises to move with the times and we have already invested a whopping £200k on new IT to improve processes, new testing equipment and modernising our factory & offices. We are excited for the future and urge everyone to keep in touch of any future developments.

Watch this space!