Are SME’s being left behind in the digital manufacturing world?
As I have blogged about previously, Industry 4.0 or the IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) has seen recent traction in the manufacturing landscape, but one of the main issues is the technology and implementation requires a significant initial investment, and costly ongoing operating costs.
SMEs are looking for readily inexpensive and easy digital solutions, they typically haven’t got IT departments as they often outsource this function, so as well as being low-cost, solutions need to be easy to use, and maintained by a 3rd party.
However, the technologies that are emerging, can be viable for SME manufacturers to gain access with technology centres sharing their equipment and expertise to reduce the impact of the initial investment, and ongoing costs.
SMEs should also look to implement Industry 4.0 in small steps, by identifying areas where the most value can be added to their business, making the technology work for them rather than it being just another expense for a bit more insight. As a starting point inexpensive machine sensors such as energy monitors could be installed to see which part of the production process used the most power, and then machine utilisation schedules could be altered for when power is cheaper. A series of small implementations such as this could kick start the SME Industry 4.0 movement.
Expenditure on machine sensors and adaptive components would qualify for the Annual Investment Allowance (AIA) which is currently £1,000,000 a year from 1 January 2019 for 2 years, and the projects involving automation and system communications could qualify for the research and development tax reliefs.
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