Small-scale manufacturers are in ‘critical danger’ of losing out to their competitors unless they adapt quickly to the changes sweeping their industries, a supply chain expert has warned.

Lucy Pamment, product manager at supply chain technology specialist Access Group, has branded many of the discussions around Industry 4.0 ‘unhelpful’ for SMEs, who have yet to get on board with the digital revolution:

“For too long now, the focus has been on global companies, whose futuristic-looking ‘smart factories’ bear little resemblance to the traditional operations you see further down the supply chain,” he said.

“The language is often too technical or academic, and the suggestion that factories will have to deploy, say, robots with artificial intelligence is extremely unhelpful.

“Many production managers are left thinking that the technology is too expensive with their limited resources. It means they are in danger of missing out on valuable opportunities to work with the giants in aerospace, food, pharmaceuticals and other industries.”

Lucy went on to explain that dispelling misconceptions around Industry 4.0 had formed the basis of a new free guide from Access Group, Industry 4.0 User Manual for SMEs:

“In this guide, we want to show that the latest innovations, including supply chain software, are affordable, scalable and can be rolled out quickly.

“Using down-to-earth language, it’s important for production managers to see their factories won’t suddenly look like something from a sci-fi film, or that the systems are difficult to master – in fact, most require the same skills you’d use with Microsoft or Facebook.

“As we break down the barriers to entry, smaller manufacturers are now seeing the benefits of digital systems for reducing costs and driving efficiencies.

“All this is crucial in an increasingly complex supply chain, where the biggest companies demand full transparency for every component and raw material. How can a supplier demonstrate traceability and compliance if all their information is stored on paper or spreadsheets?”

To download a free copy of Industry 4.0 User Manual for SMEs visit