How Can Small Businesses Benefit From Industry 4.0?

11 Jun, 2024

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How Can Small Businesses Benefit From Industry 4.0?

You might think that Industry 4.0 only applies to large-scale industries, but many benefits also apply to SMEs, including increased efficiency and productivity, giving you greater business flexibility.

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You might think that Industry 4.0 only applies to large-scale industries, but many benefits also apply to SMEs, including increased efficiency and productivity, giving you greater business flexibility. This leads to enhanced profitability and better customer satisfaction. 

Industry 4.0 technologies provide you with more and better information to improve decision-making in your business. You'll find out how to optimise your organisational processes so that you'll save time and resources. In doing so, you'll deliver more services or products quickly and cost-effectively. It's a win-win situation.

Principal Technologies 

There are nine main technological advances driving Industry 4.0:


Industry 4.0 provides more excellent connectivity across more devices with embedded computing capacity. This means that all kinds of devices can communicate and interact with each other. They can do this with centralised control systems. Analytics and decision-making thus become decentralised, enabling real-time reactions and responses.


Industry 4.0 allows both vertical and horizontal integration of complex systems. It can bind functions, capabilities, departments and companies together more cohesively. Even in small businesses, universal data-integration networks can advance customer satisfaction and enable automated value chains.


Big data allows even the smallest business to collect and evaluate data from multiple sources. These include production systems, equipment, enterprise management systems, and customer feedback information. Larger data sets and comprehensive information allow you to make more focused business decisions.


Cloud technologies are getting faster and more powerful. You may need to share valuable data across sites when your company performs more production-related activities. You can upload your machine data and analytics to the cloud to benefit from sharing information. You'll also be able to take advantage of data-driven services in your production systems.


Autonomous or collaborative robots can undertake many more tasks. These machines can work safely alongside or instead of humans and interact with each other. They're helpful in small production environments and are more cost-effective than human labour. Over time, their range of capabilities will increase.


Additive manufacturing is more commonly known as 3D printing. It has significant advantages for SMEs in terms of reducing production costs. Companies no longer need to undergo lengthy prototyping procedures but can quickly produce customised products in small batches. Even complex designs can be made quickly using a combination of CAD modelling and an in-house 3D printer. 


Augmented reality systems use IIoT devices to support a variety of services. Using AR, you can provide employees with real-time information over remote devices. Capabilities include sending detailed repair instructions or picking parts in a warehouse. AR helps companies to streamline work procedures and improve decision-making.


The next step with AR and VR is computer simulation, sometimes called digital twins. They're used a lot in large-scale industrial operations like automotive manufacturing and shipyards but can equally be helpful for small business operations. This system represents the physical world digitally, together with real-time data. You can test and optimise multiple iterations of a new product, increasing quality and significantly reducing machine setup times.


Cybersecurity is one of the significant drawbacks to Industry 4.0. Although you'll benefit from increased connectivity and cross-platform communications protocols, you'll also be at increased risk from cybercrime. Protecting your critical systems and sensitive information from cybersecurity threats is essential. The digital world advances exponentially, and sadly, cybercriminals are constantly finding new ways to attack your system. Secure, reliable communications will become part and parcel of your digital transformation. You'll install sophisticated access management to business systems, production machinery, and user identity verification protocols.

Expected Benefits Of Digital Transformation

Many business owners, especially owners of SMEs, are put off adopting Industry 4.0 tech because of the capital outlay involved. You might have higher priorities for expenditure or cybersecurity concerns. You might not see how digitalisation can help your business or lack the necessary skills to manage complex IIoT systems. If you don't have the appropriate infrastructure, digitalisation can be a daunting prospect for an SME. 

However, at this stage in our technological journey, most businesses will perceive that digital transformation is inevitable. You'll want to take advantage of better production speeds and product quality, increased outputs and profitability. In the long run, you'll achieve considerable cost savings in reduced downtime. Techniques like additive manufacturing and predictive maintenance will help you reduce costly defects, errors, waste and delays.

You'll use big data and cloud computing to speed up and improve decision-making. Real-time forecasting and systems monitoring will help improve your customer experience, as you'll be better able to anticipate market demands. Your services and delivery performance will improve, and you'll enhance your supply chain relationships. You'll enjoy greater collaboration and knowledge sharing, increase your capacity for innovation and become more competitive.

As a knock-on benefit from these factors, you'll be better positioned for talent acquisition. You'll have better organisational security and an enhanced ability to combat risk and fraud. Also, compliance with regulations will become easier.   

Embracing The Change

Industry 4.0 technologies evolve rapidly, so you must recognise and embrace the changes. Fully comprehending the digital revolution will allow your business to get "smart". Your organisational processes will get more efficient and your business more competitive. To do this, you must adopt new business models, install new equipment and upskill your employees. 

This might seem an insurmountable barrier to embracing digital transformation, but today's SMEs are better positioned to take advantage of the benefits. If you're a small business that hasn't yet invested in digitalisation, you'll find plenty of online resources and tools to help you. Or you can contact our specialist advisers at Rowse, who'll always be happy to help.