Posted on February 15, 2017 by staff

Helping SMEs tap into Industry 4.0 technology


A Liverpool-based firm is determined that its machine-to-machine technology should benefit SMEs as well as blue chip companies.

Brainboxes designs and manufactures hardware to connect machines to other machines and is at the centre of the Industry 4.0 industrial revolution.

Managing director Luke Walsh spoke to BusinessCloud about the aims of a firm founded in 1984 which also has offices in the USA and Japan.

“In many ways the Internet of Things has given a glamorous name to a service we have been offering our customers for many years,” he said.

“At one time every Marks and Spencer’s cash register had a Brainboxes product in it.

“In the US, many hospital renal wards use our products to connect kidney dialysis machines to the cloud.

“In manufacturing, the Sony factory which produces the Raspberry Pi uses our product in their test systems on their production lines.

“And in IT our business partner Lenovo uses our products as an option for their customers to add extra ports to their Lenovo laptops.

“Brainboxes’ mission is to help realise Industry 4.0 for our customers, no matter what the size.

“Blue chip companies will be able to tap into the benefits of Industry 4.0 technology relatively easily as the scale of their manufacturing justifies the cost of investment.

“However Brainboxes will allow SMEs of any size to tap into the benefits of the technology.

“In many ways Industry 4.0 is not new technology; it’s the fact that the price of the technology has lowered and the driving force of the internet and web-based technologies has pushed a level of standardisation which wasn’t previously there.

“Industry 4.0 is not a specific technology or a destination, it is a journey towards a more integrated business operation.

“It will be a combination of different technologies from different companies working together to provide value.”

Brainboxes, which employs 30 people, has thrown its weight behind LCR 4.0, a new business support programme aimed at helping manufacturers in the Liverpool City Region to take advantage of the opportunities associated with Industry 4.0.

Walsh said: “Brainboxes is pursuing a strategy of investing in Industry 4.0 technologies to provide our customers with better solutions.”

He said businesses need to work out how much machine downtime costs them to truly appreciate the potential benefit of Industry 4.0.

“I went to a print company recently who recorded their machine down time,” he recalled. “We totalled up the hours on the graph and saw they had over £1 million in lost productivity due to down time.

“As soon as you can quantify it in that way it makes the internal sales pitch between middle and upper management easy. Spend thousands to save £100,000 etc. If you’re not measuring it then you can’t manage it.

“A key aspect of Industry 4.0 will be preventative, predictive and reactive maintenance. By monitoring machines and analysing the data produced, a maintenance engineer can reduce downtime by predicting when components on a machine need replacing/servicing.

“Brainboxes is embarking on trials with our key customers to create a machine monitoring for preventative maintenance solution.”