Digital factory: the new industrial revolution

With Debbie Krupitzer,
North America Digital Manufacturing and IoT Practice Lead at Capgemini

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Digital factory: the new industrial revolution

After steam, steel and electricity, the next industrial revolution may well be the Factory 4.0. What’s behind the digital factory concept? What benefits does it offer companies? We spoke to a specialist on the topic to find out more.

Industrial companies worldwide that have implemented digital factory processes within their production site

A revolution is underway

In Germany, a semi-conductor manufacturer is investing more than $100 million to transform its primary industrial site into a “smart factory,” complete with 3D printers and automated handling machines. In India, a large company is building a factory capable of producing various parts thanks to the rise of digital technologies. In North America, a key player in mechanical engineering is using an interactive platform to manage its innovation processes.

Between 17% and 20%
Productivity gains offered by the digital factory according to business sector

Cases like these are popping up more and more each day, proving that a revolution is taking the industrial world by storm: Factory 4.0, also known as the Digital Factory. And it’s spreading to every country and business sector.

« Digitization represents a major shift in the history of industry. It enables us to bridge the gap between industry and services. Industrial goods now involve an increasing portion of shared services. » Debbie Krupitzer

Debbie Krupitzer
North America Digital Manufacturing and IoT Practice Lead at Capgemini

Meeting two requirements

We’re clearly talking about a fourth industrial revolution,” says Debbie Krupitzer, Capgemini’s North America Digital Manufacturing and IoT Practice Lead. “There are three major differences here compared to earlier industrial revolutions. This one doesn’t only focus on products, but also extends to services. It makes it possible to customize products and manufacture in shorter time frames. Factory 4.0 represents a major shift from the mass production of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Percentage of companies in healthcare and pharmaceuticals that have adopted a digital factory approach

This shift is revolutionary both for the industrial companies and the consumers. “Factory 4.0 meets two key requirements,” says Krupitzer. “First, it makes companies more productive, efficient and competitive. Digital tools make it possible to reduce costs by simplifying processes, enhance flexibility in operations, move quickly from one manufacturing process to another, track products across their entire lifecycle, and greatly improve oversight and quality. They also enable greater interaction and collaboration through the continual sharing of information.

Between 62% and 67%
Percentage of companies in the aeronautics, arms and automotive industries that have adopted a digital factory approach

Factory 4.0 also meets customers’ changing needs. “For example, in the automotive industry, digital tools help to push the envelope in terms of vehicle customization: colors, options, on-demand services, etc. Production is now tailor-made. Just 20 or 30 years ago this would have been unthinkable. It simply would have been too costly. Now it’s possible.

Disruption in manufacturing!

So, what do the smart factories Capgemini designs for its clients look like?

They are based on four fundamental technologies: connected objects, big data, artificial intelligence or advanced robotics, and the cloud. “These technologies have totally transformed the industrial world. For example, connected objects make it possible to set up predictive maintenance systems, which enable continual exchange between a part and the machine or industrial site that made it. Artificial intelligence is about rolling out collaborative robots that can interact with humans and take certain tasks off their hands. The possibilities are endless,” explains Krupitzer regarding “disruption” in production processes.

Factory 4.0 is the end of mass-produced goods intended for a non-descript customer base. We are moving beyond mass consumption.
»Debbie Krupitzer

An entirely new model is emerging. And despite how it looks, humans still have a crucial role to play. “One of the digital factory’s goals is not to replace people, but to reassign them to tasks that add value and draw on their initiative and creativity,” says Krupitzer.

Is this trend inevitable? “There’s no doubt about it,” she concludes. “Just as the Internet was adopted by every company, the digital factory will likewise soon become the norm in every industry due to its inherent benefits.

Read Capgemini’s recent report on Smart Factories and the Modern Manufacturer.

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