Manufacturers need faster Internet in UK to embrace IIoT

Manufacturing is changing in the United Kingdom, and it needs high-speed Internet connectivity to embrace the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
By Sandra Vogel April 17, 2016

Manufacturing is changing with the advent of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). For manufacturers to realize its full potential, they need high-speed, high-quality Internet connectivity in the United Kingdom to make this a reality. Developments in manufacturing through high-speed Internet include automated manufacturing by robots, using real-time information to enhance processes and make product development faster, and using virtual simulations of manufacturing and design processes.

Collectively, these are among the characteristics of the fourth industrial revolution, or Industrie 4.0 in Germany, for which high-quality, digital infrastructure is crucial.

The manufacturers’ organization, EEF, said 91% of manufacturers in the UK say a high-speed Internet connection is as essential to business as electricity and water. It also said that 48% of firms use Internet-connected objects such as sensors or automated machines at least once a week, and 55% need the Internet for resource planning every day.

The potential financial benefits are significant. A report by Accenture indicates that by 2030 the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) could be worth $531 billion (£370 billion) to the UK and $700 billion (£487 billion) to Germany. Chris Richards, senior business environment policy advisor at EEF, said that if UK manufacturing is to hold its own in the IIoT world, the quality of the digital infrastructure underpinning it needs to improve-and fast.

"Things will need to turn around in the next 5 years," he said. Our survey showed that around 62% of manufacturers are planning to invest more in Internet-connected capital equipment, as part of Industrie 4.0, over that time period. Previous EEF surveys have also shown that manufacturers expect Industrie 4.0 to be a business reality by 2025. So we need to take action now to pave the way for that investment."

The EEF said that 50% of companies say their Internet upload and download speeds are fast enough for their needs, but 22% say it is too slow, and many are paying a premium for the services they get: a third have invested in a dedicated leased line, and more than a third spend over £5,000 a year on Internet connections.

When asked how that 50% figure might grow if Internet infrastructure provision doesn’t develop Richards said: "If things don’t change, realistically, we are looking at manufacturers scouting for other locations to make Industrie 4.0 investments. So I would say it would be less about how that figure grows and more about whether or not the UK is seen as a competitive location at all in the future."

Sandra Vogel is editor at Internet of Business, which is hosting the Internet of Manufacturing Conference November 1-2, 2016, in Chicago. This article originally appeared hereInternet of Business is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, CFE Media, cvavra@cfemedia.com.

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