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The elephant in the room

17 January 2018

As with many things that are heavily hyped, there is a lot to unpack in Industry 4.0.

In essence, it’s about the increasingly pervasive use of IT in industry and logistics. This isn’t that interesting in itself. The data generated by this IT is more important. Indeed, the data is in itself, not that important, it is how this data can be used to create insights that will count for businesses.

Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, smarter automation, 3D printing etc are also significant. But many expert commentators are emphasising that processes and people are more important than technology.

In essence they warn that technology in itself is limited, so don’t think that a certain new tech, or investment will provide a magic bullet. All good common sense.

There’s also a lot of related issues, such as commodification of hardware, and the continued rise of China as a sophisticated industrial power. All of this means that manufacturers are more likely to need to develop advanced solutions, or software and service extensions, if they want to maintain high-margin globally competitive businesses.

This last point is key. It will be possible for UK manufacturers to ignore the hype and continue as normal. But in the long term it may become impossible to do so without becoming essentially a budget, me-too business.

I think all of this will have an impact on the logistics world. It will bring disruption. The good news is that won’t be on the same scale as the disruption seen by the retail world with the growth of eCommerce, and indeed having gone through a sharp process of profound change in one sector, the logistics world should be ready and able to adapt to new challenges.

We have a Special Report on Modern Manufacturing, see here.

Its another excellent month for innovative product launches. For example, Narrow Aisle’s Warehouse Systems division has launched Flexi Easi-Change – an intelligent forklift truck battery charging and management system. ROI looks particularly attractive on multi-shift operations. For more details click here.

The upcoming IntraLogisteX show is also proving to be a rallying point for product innovation. We have a preview as part of our Connected Supply Chain feature. 

New solutions to the market include an Excel spreadsheet-driven box sorter that is said to be one third the price of an average sortation system. The is a collaboration from Red Ledge and Stockrail International. Red Ledge RedRail is said to sort most items that can be scanned at a rate of 500 to 1,000 boxes an hour.

Also in the January issue look out for a UniCarriers pedestrian pallet truck series with a central tiller arm, and semi-automated order picking trucks equipped with t-mote remote drive from Toyota.

Lastly, 2018 is shaping up to be the biggest and best yet for The Health & Safety Event at the NEC, 10-12 April 2018. The H&SS Safer Logistics Zone will form a key part of the Show, with its own dedicated Exhibitor Zone & Seminar Theatre.

 
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