Posted at 07 June 2019

Are We Reminiscing Too Much? Let's Get Back to the Future

Paul Skade
By Richard Ludlam
Marketing Manager

Intrigued by all things engineering, as a youngster I originally looked to understand how things work then, how to make them work better.

After time in eng...

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Reminiscing about old times can be good for business. Tickets to see reformed bands often sell-out in minutes. Vintage goods can fetch a premium. It doesn’t matter that the band members are now a bit wrinkly and have lost their youthful good looks. Neither is it a problem that the retro item has been used, because reminiscing about the past often brings back fond memories. But when it comes to manufacturing, too much reminiscing is holding us back.

old vs new technologies


One economics editor of a Sunday newspaper said in a recent article “It is [also] true that there is probably too much nostalgia and wishful thinking about manufacturing.”    

BA manager of a robotics company said in a recent media roundtable that UK manufacturers “are proud of keeping old machines running”, echoing the sentiment that reminiscing about the past is not healthy. The aforementioned editor hammered home the point, saying “[But] we will never go back to a time, as after the war, when Britain accounted for a quarter of global manufacturing exports,” and that “we should aim to do better than preside over its genteel decline.”

That said, our little nation still punches above its weight compared to some of our bigger competitors such as the US and China. But to make sure that UK manufacturing remains competitive, we need to stop living in the past. Great British innovators such as James Watt didn’t develop the steam engine whilst daydreaming about bygone days. His business partner, Matthew Boulton, didn’t become an industrial entrepreneur by sticking with hand tools and basic machines.

It might seem contradictory to hail historic figures whilst saying that we should move on from the past. But it’s not their inventions I want to focus on here. It’s the desire and drive to innovate and adopt new technologies, and as a result, transforming how manufacturing is done, that should push us forward today. 

We are not short of research and development (R&D) resources to support industry in the UK. The government is aiming to raise investment in R&D to 2.4% of GDP by 2027 as part of its Industrial Strategy. Many cross-industry exchanges and collaborations are enabling academia, business and institutions to share knowledge and turn research learnings into practical applications.

The question is – are businesses ready and receptive to implementing new technology? ERIKS’ own research into whether maintenance managers and technicians truly understand Industry 4.0 showed high levels of knowledge of how connectivity and Big Data can improve manufacturing productivity and maintenance practices. However, in the rush to promote Industry 4.0, the practical difficulties of implementation have been almost completely overlooked.

Responses revealed a significant amount of reluctance to share machine or production data with OEMs and third party maintenance suppliers. Without access to data, remote monitoring, predictive maintenance, condition monitoring and other progressive maintenance techniques are, at best difficult and, more likely, practically impossible.

This inertia is preventing businesses from reaping the rewards offered by greater collaboration and information sharing. Manufacturing in countries such as Germany are already further ahead on the road to digital transformation. If UK manufacturing is to remain competitive in the global economy in the future, we must move on and move quickly to catch up, before competitors take an unassailable lead. There is much work to be done and that work must start now.


Liked this article? You might want to read Know+How Magazine Issue 37, packed with related articles and more!

It's not just external surroundings that contribute to an aggressive environment, materials that are being processed and what goes through your equipment can also put assets under strain. 

We take a look at some of the issues you face on a daily basis and how to mitigate some of the risks. 

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