Industry 4.0 led by the EU, US, and China, says tech expert

By Flora Southey

- Last updated on GMT

The fourth industrial revolution is here, and some countries are embracing digitisation and advanced manufacturing techniques faster than others, says Siemens exec.

“Digitalisation has arrived in our lives,” ​Siemens’ Andrew Whytock told delegates at the Adents Serialization Innovation Summit in Paris this month.

Consumer behaviour and the way patients use, buy, and are prescribed medications is changing: “We can order customised coffee…why not order customised medicines, printed directly at a pharmacy?” ​said the head of digitalisation and innovation.

Industry 4.0 is commonly associated with artificial intelligence, 3D printing, and advanced robotics. However, Whytock said in the pharmaceutical manufacturing space he has observed a ‘real willingness’ to adopt paperless manufacturing, electronic batch records, smart biomanufacturing and modular facilities.

But according to Whytock, some countries are embracing the digital era and advanced manufacturing practices faster than others.

Western Europe – Germany in particular – is embracing Industry 4.0, he told delegates.

China is also spending a lot of money to embrace digitalisation, and remains competitive on an international level, he said: “Western Europe, China and US are the real frontrunners.”

GSK proof-of-concept

UK-headquartered GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in one such company embracing the fourth industrial revolution with a ‘pharmaceutical factory of the future’, said Whytock.

Siemens – and a number of suppliers – has been working with the firm on a proof-on-concept facility outside London designed to improve how operators interact with the site. 

GSK is looking beyond ‘paperless’ plants, he told delegates, adding that the firm is developing a factory concept that eliminates the need for keyboards: Potentially, operators “will do everything by gesture and by touch.”

The ‘factory of the future’ could use virtual or augmented reality to access instant dashboards and manufacturing data on the shop floor, he added.

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