AN accountancy firm’s annual round table brought together manufacturing and technology leaders to debate matters affecting the industry, with the spotlight on how businesses can prosper from Industry 4.0.

Tait Walker’s event, chaired by managing partner Andrew Moorby, included representatives from Lloyds Banking, CPI, and County Durham Engineering and Manufacturing Network.

Participants debated Industry 4.0, which has been heralded as the fourth industrial revolution, and is the name for the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies.

This includes developments such as 3D printing, horizontal and vertical system integration and cloud solutions.

So far, Industry 4.0 has introduced robotic warehouse picking, automated assembly for automotive manufacturing, and augmented reality in training and sales.

According to IT and technology officials taking part in the discussion, which was held at Ramside Hall, North-East businesses must adopt this technology to remain competitive and succeed on a national and global scale.

However, what transpired throughout the debate was that manufacturers are not fully aware of what Industry 4.0 entails, how they can implement it, and how it will benefit them.

Further concerns were raised over a lack of funding.

Another prevalent area of debate was the skills shortage in the region, and it was agreed an infrastructure must be put in place to train graduates to enter higher level jobs.

Mr Moorby said: “This debate focused primarily on Industry 4.0, and how North-East businesses can adapt and prosper.

“There was a consensus that there is a gap between the ambition of the tech sector and the understanding of the manufacturing industry, acting as a barrier for implementation.

“Although business leaders were optimistic at conclusion of the discussion, it is clear more needs to be done to make this new technology accessible to the region’s manufacturing leaders.

“It is a challenge for tech specialists in the region, therefore, to create a roadmap and help to steer the process.”