Interview to Faouzi Grebici, Industry Solutions Europe of Omron
How do you think the future of the industrial sector will be with all the 4.0 technologies available nowadays? We are talking about the impact of Artificial Intelligence, cybersecurity, Data Analytics or Digital Twin, among others, on the production processes.
First let us define what Industry 4.0, and all the technologies supporting it, are aiming to change. Being in the industry for over 35 years and having lived through various waves of technology changes, I could rightfully ask what is the difference between Computer Integrated Manufacturing that emerged in the late ’80s and today Industry 4.0. Advanced factories were already networked, data shared across the plant and ERP’s and EMS’s were already there… Well, the difference is that today there is an important factor that invited himself to the game of information network and that is the end consumer. Through a simple click today, the consumer on his sofa can impact the manufacturing plant. This today is calling to a complete re-think of the way we manufacture and at the heart of this re-think is flexibility and agility.
Many experts say that digitization and automatization will increase productivity in the industry. What tools or technologies can be used to achieve this goal?
I would prefer DIGITAL-LEAN and Automation-SMART. Because both approaches put Flexibility at the heart of the digitalisation and automation journey. Hyper digitalisation and hyper-automation without a LEAN thinking proved many times to be too rigid with short-lived results. Tools and technologies are easy to acquire but difficult to apply and get results from. Hence we should really focus on the journey rather than on the “vehicle”. Above all this journey should include a complete eco-system of technology providers, machine builders and manufacturers…
Through a simple click today, the consumer on his sofa can impact the manufacturing plant. This today is calling to a complete re-think of the way we manufacture and at the heart of this re-think is flexibility and agility
In which point is the industrial sector in terms of implementing robotization and automation in factories?
This depends from sector to sector of course. However, we see a real awakening and a real will to automate further. The key is to have a holistic and mid to long term view with a clear roadmap. The main hurdle preventing the industry from automating and robotizing is the dilemma between short term goals in terms of productivity measured through short term ROI’s while thinking and investing ahead with potentially lower returns. Many manufacturers established centralised engineering teams to decouple the short from the long term and to explore such new technologies. The trap here is that those teams lose touch with the field and become isolated from day to day reality. What usually works is to have agile teams where the members are expert in their field and keep their positions in the field/plant while taking part of a global network of experts.
Who will be the most referent people on innovation in the industry nowadays? Why?
Innovation is not exclusive to a certain club of people, it is mostly a consequence of the company culture. I would say that innovation strives better in mid-size companies that fight for their share of the market for every project against the dominants or de-facto choices. Also, it is cultivated from the top and this happens when the layers between the big boss and the customer are minimum. It happens less in over-structured and rigidly clustered organisations.
We see a real awakening and a real will to automate further. The key is to have a holistic and mid to long term view with a clear roadmap
Which are the main challenges of industrial SMEs? From which point would you recommend them to start?
Think BEYOND (not big), start SMALL and scale FAST. Think beyond because the daily whirlwind and the urgent matters unfortunately always go first. SME’s have to take time to look at emerging technologies and establish a vision match between company vision and technology capability. Vision without the support of technology is just a slogan and technology without a credible vision is just a waste of money. The second point is to start SMALL. The smallest possible investment with the maximum possible return on proofing the concept. It is important not to test bits and pieces here and there but to establish a vertical model that touches directly or indirectly the end customer. As it is small, correction and adjustments can be made and the true learning lies in those small but many adjustments. Finally, scale FAST which comes after the learning and the proofing. Here the business infrastructure, training, standardisation procedures etc…Should be put in place.