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The smart manufacturing platforms’ sector is expected to grow by 20%

Choose Intelligent Insurance Cover for Your Smart Factory

June 2020

The smart manufacturing platforms’ sector is expected to grow by 20% in five years, with a prediction that smart factories could deliver a $2 Trillion contribution to the global economy over the same period, according to the Capgemini Research Institute.[1] But what would that mean for company culture and employers seeking to integrate smart technology into established ways of working?

The attractions of smart manufacturing platforms are clear and online grocery retailer, Ocado, has already created a means of using 1000 speedy robots in its picking facility, operating these by wireless control and having them pick a 50-item order in just five minutes. With a warehousing system devised by Cambridge Consultants, it is at the cutting edge of distribution.

For others to reach this stage will require significant investment but there are other considerations too. Many businesses run on the basis of IT structures at present and these will need to work in harmony with Operational Technology (OT) systems, which are designed to monitor the smart devices and digital platforms that underpin smart factories. Achieving this will be no mean feat, particularly as real people are in charge of the IT and robots will replace some, or all, of their colleagues on the factory floor.[2]

Prior to such a major step, Derek Long, Head of Telecoms and Mobile at Cambridge Consultants, suggests that businesses need to analyse their processes and cultures, if they are to make the most of the potential of OT systems.

Another major consideration will have to be insurance. Any disruption to company culture and ways of working can have major impacts on existing personnel and this sort of disruption can create employment disputes that can result in expensive legal cases.

Moving too much towards smart technology also creates greater exposure to cybercrime, with hackers often relishing new challenges to disrupt businesses and supply chains. On top of this, when the entire workforce of robots is operating or static within a factory or distribution centre around the clock, the impact of a major fire, or even a major weather event, could be disastrous, if the robots are damaged or destroyed.

Connectivity and intelligent automation have a bright future but, without adopting Luddite standpoints, there has to be a considered review of how such technologies impact on risk and what insurances are therefore required. The safety net should be as comprehensive for a smart business as it is for any other traditionally operated commercial concern.

If you are in a position to introduce such technology into your business, or any sort of smart way of working that could impact on existing work patterns and cultures, it is wise to consult with an insurance broker, who can analyse your risk. If you wish to find an expert to help you, please use our ‘Find a Local Broker’ tool.