This week in Liverpool dozens of events marked Digital Manufacturing Week 2018, which ADS’s Sameer Savani, Head of Innovation and Engineering, spoke at. ADS represents four cutting-edge advanced manufacturing sectors, who are playing a central role in delivering what has been called Industry 4.0. If the third wave of modern manufacturing was the rise of automation in the 2000s, then the fourth wave is about the digitisation of the manufacturing sector, which the UK’s aerospace, defence, security and space sectors are very much at the forefront of. For instance, at the July 2018 Farnborough International Airshow (run by a wholly owned subsidiary of ADS), the Aerospace 4.0 zone showcased a range of advanced digital technologies transforming the aerospace sector through automation, data exchange and processes.

There are so many aspects to digital manufacturing that it can sometimes sound like a shopping list of new technologies. Whether it is the deployment of augmented reality systems, 3D printing or machine learning analysis, this field is full of potential to revolutionise the way factories and supply chains operate through the deployment of new ‘cyber-physical’ production systems. The potential impact on productivity and competitiveness through the adoption of currently known digital technologies is dramatic, and businesses should be acting now to introduce new digital capabilities if they do not want to fall behind the competition. However, in a world where industrial devices and factories are becoming increasingly ‘smart’, through the so-called Internet of Things, this presents an interesting set of security challenges to manage.

A report earlier this year from EEF, AIG and the think-tank the Royal United Services Institute showed that a third of manufacturing companies are nervous about investing in digital technologies because of the risk of cyber-attacks. It’s not hard to imagine why – nearly half of the manufacturers surveyed by EEF had suffered a cyber-attack. As factories and devices become increasingly connected, they also become a vulnerability in a network that can be exploited. Cyber-security must therefore be at the heart of Industry 4.0, if this paradigm shift is to be realised successfully. Nonetheless, introducing new digital capabilities securely is not just a technological challenge – it is about systems and networks, skills and competencies, and the underlying business strategy.

To help companies to exploit the opportunities from Industry 4.0, while minimising their vulnerabilities, ADS runs two different Special Interest Groups. The first, the Digital Manufacturing Group, works to spread awareness of Industry 4.0; identify and share best practise; and represent ADS’s sectors before UK Government on the digitisation agenda. The second, the new Digital Information and Systems Integrity Group, will support ADS’s four sectors to protect themselves against malicious digital acts and maximise business development opportunities for member companies involved in cyber-security. ADS will continue to support its members through guidance and events as they continue on their journey to digitise their manufacturing processes.