Factory of the Future Awards 2017 – Growth and Jobs

By Valentijn de Leeuw

Category:
Technology Trends

 

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The Belgian Factory of the Future Awards 2017 were assigned in Brussels, Belgium on February 2nd. The event gathered several hundred business people.  In total sixteen companies applied for the award.  The jury designated five winners out of three industry sectors from eight candidates that were found mature enough to measure themselves against the seven “Made Different” criteria of a Factory of the Future 4.0*:

  • World class manufacturing technologies
  • End-to-end Engineering
  • Digital Factory
  • Human Centered Production
  • Production Network
  • Eco Production
  • Smart Production Systems

The concept can be regarded as a maturity model for industrial performance. We will report in more detail on the content of the model in a follow-up blog.

Herman Derache, chief Innovation of Agoria, the industry association providing innovation support to the technology sector in Belgium, kicked off the meeting and explained that the Award provides recognition and visibility to companies who apply Industrie 4.0 and similar technological advances in addition to the optimal use of people.  The companies must score four on a scale of five - for each criterion.

The purpose of the annually attributed awards is to stimulate companies to improve their competiveness and maintain manufacturing activities and jobs in Belgium.  This is the interpretation for the manufacturing sector of the Europe 2020 strategy that spawned many other initiatives such as Industrie 4.0 in Germany.  Three partners, Sirris, Agoria and Flanders MAKE support three hundred companies in Belgium in becoming more competitive and achieve the Factory of the Future 4.0 status.

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Keynote By Dr. Beitinger, Plant Manager of  Siemens’ Role Model Factory Amberg

Dr. Gunter Beitinger, VP of Manufacturing and plant manager of Siemens’ Amberg site that manufactures automation equipment gave a keynote about his view and approach in making the Amberg site ever more competitive, and a role model for other factories.  Dr. Beitinger introduced the Industrie 4.0 concept, and sketched the impressive capabilities of the site, amongst which a quality of 11 defects per million, or 99,9989 percent.  He explained his approach to reduce waste and non-value adding variability in an increasingly complex process and supply chain.  Dr. Beitinger also stressed the organizational and motivational aspects of his approach.  His goal is to stay focused on value adding activities, and develop towards an ever more agile production system for 2050, with velocity, flexibility efficiency, quality as drivers.  We will report in more detail on his very interesting presentation in a second follow-up blog.

Major Economic and Social Benefits

Paul Peeters, Lead Expert Innovation at Agoria, the Belgian industry association supporting the technology sector in socio-economic, legal, policy and business development matters, explained that he met with all sixteen Factory of the Future 4.0 candidates and recommended to half of them to assess themselves.  The jury judging these assessments was composed of experts from Agoria and Sirris, with people “from the field” and winners of last year’s contest.  

Mr. Peeters reported that  the five winners, among which three SMEs, have invested the last 4 years over 100 million Euro to become more, including digitalization and automation, and have created 100 additional jobs.  Currently these companies have 120 additional open positions. 

Together, this year’s and previous Factory of the Future winners have invested all together over 500 million Euro, not with the goal to reduce their workforce. Instead they have increased their market shares, found new markets, created growth and had on average 11 percent personnel increase, compare to the average decrease of 4-5 percent, a delta of 15 percent.  The purpose of these efforts is that these gains are sustainable.

The Winners' Journeys

Veranneman Technical Textiles is one of the SMEs that has received the award. The textile industry in Western Europe has been through major difficulties in the past decades related to competition from developing companies.  The award demonstrates that textile in high-wage countries can be vibrant and viable again,  when a focus on R&D fuels an output of innovative products, in combination with  an efficient manufacturing process, and when these are supported by the workforce,.

Two SMEs in the food and beverage sectors won the award: The company Rousselot debottlenecked and automated their processes, and attracted highly skilled personnel. At Nuscience automation was a major factor in addition to reduction of errors and workload of personnel. The company produces mostly products made for unique specifications, with only 5 percent of product in stock.  Nuscience reported it has become more attractive for hiring personnel.

Two sites of large companies were selected in the technology sector. Valeo Eclairage Signalisation in Belgium, part of the Valeo group, wanted to become more competitive within the own concern and keep up with international standards.  The company stressed the importance of management in supporting people in their work, and called on other companies to take the Factory of the Future challenge.  A Daikin site was also selected and mentioned the award was a milestone on a continuing journey, something that winners of last year also mentioned.  More details on the five winners can be found here.

Conclusion

For years, I had very high hopes on the Europe 2020 strategy, and I have been watching closely the unfolding of different initiatives.  At this event, I found solid proof that the strategy is the right one, and that it must be rolled out at the highest possible pace.  3IF.be is one of the local Flemish accelerators, in evangelizing and supporting SME’s to adopt modernization of manufacturing using digitalization and Industrial IoT.  We will continue to follow and report on the progress of the initiatives around Europe.

*Factory of the Future 4.0 in Belgium is a performance maturity model for the Belgian industry, created by common research institute Sirris and the technology federation Agoria for the action plan “Made Different”, of the Flemish government with the goal to make Flemish companies competitive at world scale.  Factory of the Future 4.0 It is very similar in name but different from to “Factories of the Future” a public private partnership cosponsored by the European Commission.  The private component of it is coordinated by EFFRA, The European Factories of the Future Research Association.

 

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