The increased use of ‘Industry 4.0’ technologies within the manufacturing sector is expected to cause a  “significant swing” towards higher skilled positions which will most likely benefit London and the South East over other UK regions, a new study has claimed.

The Go Fourth report by national law firm Irwin Mitchell and the Centre for Economic & Business Research (Cebr) examines the latest trends and impact on the manufacturing sector of new technologies such as fully autonomous robots, 3D printing and augmented reality.

Often referred to as the fourth wave of the Industrial Revolution, these technologies create ‘smart factories’ which offer benefits including higher productivity, increased production speed and improved product quality.

Despite a common fear that the increased utilisation of these technologies would result in job losses, the study suggests that employment levels within the manufacturing sector will increase by 0.8 per cent between now and 2021 as a result.

However, certain occupations will be hit harder and the impact of this will be felt to a greater extent in some areas of the UK.

According to the report, lower skill professions and administrative jobs will fall in the next four years but there will be a 12 per cent increase in managers, directors and senior officials and a 7 per cent rise for professional occupations.

Manufacturers in the East Midlands,  Northern Ireland and Yorkshire employ the highest percentage of at-risk occupation groups, while London and the South East employ the least.

As a result,  the job creation will occur in areas with more employment of managers and professional occupations, of which there are a higher proportion in London and the South East.

“While one in three businesses surveyed believe that Industry 4.0 will reduce employment in the next decade, the report forecasts that on aggregate, employment will be stable until 2021,” Irwin Mitchell senior partner Dorrien Peters said.

“The distribution in terms of type of job and the location is set to change considerably and could have major repercussions for a large number of businesses.”

The report also incorporated a YouGov study of senior decision makers in 300 UK manufacturing companies.

Among the key findings from the report is that investment in Industry 4.0 technologies remains limited; only 14 per cent of those surveyed have invested in big data and/or cloud solutions while 12 per cent invested in 3D printing technologies.

Peters added: “This growth will provide productivity benefits but it appears that many manufacturing businesses in the UK are still concerned by the cost of investing in Industry 4.0 technology.

"Also, a number of businesses believe that their cyber security would be threatened by Industry 4.0.”

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