Smaller manufacturers 'have most to gain from Industry 4.0'

Across the globe, manufacturers are at different stages of the journey towards Industry 4.0.

Yet while most firms recognise the benefits of adopting advanced technology in their operations -- from efficiency savings to increased production quality and reduced downtime -- some have been slow to take the plunge.

In Canada, a recent survey of 251 company owners and senior executives by PLANT Magazine and BDO Canada LLP found that almost 90% recognise that technologies such as digital, automation, the cloud and AI help them compete globally.

Most of the companies involved in the survey are small, with more than half employing fewer than 50 people and/or generating revenue of less than C$10m (€6.5m) a year. Almost two thirds acknowledged that smaller operations have the most to gain from Industry 4.0. However, they are lagging behind their bigger competitors in adopting new industrial tech. For example, just 24% are using the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to gather and analyse machine data and other digital information.

PLANT Magazine found that a variety of concerns are holding firms back, including the cost of Industry 4.0, where the financing needed to replace machinery and other equipment will come from, how legacy tech will be integrated, the return on investment (ROI), and potential cybersecurity risks.

National governments can help clear some of these barriers, according to trade association Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME).

It recommended that the Canadian government improve the accessibility of information about new technologies and testing opportunities by funding case studies, technology demonstration hubs and site visits.

Another suggestion is a tax credit on the purchase of new machinery, equipment and technologies, to offset high purchase costs and investment risks of new technologies.

And the research report highlights the fact that, although SMEs may have good reasons for holding off on significant technology implementations, they will be facing competitors that have made or are making those investments.

"Companies that aren't preparing for the future will soon discover they're travelling on a short road," PLANT Magazine concludes.

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