Sensorization, internet of things, robotics or cloud services. Concepts that have been gaining popularity in recent years and are part of the industry called 4.0, which is now facing the challenge of ceasing to be a way to innovate and experiment in companies to become integrated into its strategy.
This advance, which involves great complexity, will be accompanied by promising economic benefits: "Industry 4.0 will generate over 500,000 million euros in the next few years, that is, 0.7% of world GDP," he stressed. vice president of consumer products, retail, distribution and industry of Capgemini, David Luengo, during a breakfast organized by Five days with the collaboration of Capgemini. Under the name Industry 4.0: from innovation to industrialization, this has been the first of a series of innovation meetings applied to different technologies and sectors that will be carried out throughout this year.
Although each company must follow a different path to implement new technologies that allow it to increase its profitability, which means that it will face different challenges, the ultimate goal of all of them is to transform this new way of operating in creating value for companies. "We can not see Industry 4.0 as a catalog of technological enablers: it really is a brutal opportunity to improve competitiveness," said Mario Sánchez Fernández, corporate industrial director in Grupo Antolin.
New technologies have brought with them a quantity of data that companies must be able to process. "The important thing is to understand what we have around us and how we can apply it to each specific business," said René González, director of advanced manufacturing at Gestamp. In this sense, the group dedicated to the design, development and manufacture of components for automobiles has decided to take advantage of the new technological possibilities to "improve the operation and the relationship with suppliers and customers".
Meanwhile, Talgo, the data provided by the up to 15,000 sensors implanted in their trains provide these vehicles a plus in security, said Luis Alfonso Henar, director of maintenance of the company. Talgo can now analyze all the information provided by these sensors in real time and thus increase the safety of its passengers, while reducing the frequency with which their trains must pass through the workshop to perform routine checks.
In Airbus, on the other hand, they seek to take advantage of technologies to meet the needs of customers. In this sense, the plans that have been launched are aimed at getting aircraft to spend less time on land, said Juan Ignacio Castro, digital transformation officer of Airbus Spain.
One of the great challenges that companies face in this process of digitization is the large investment that they have to carry out and, consequently, make it profitable, as well as the lack of qualified personnel to operate with these new systems. In addition, companies also find it difficult to know where to find these experts. "There are several ways to access this qualification: open innovation [cooperación con profesionales u organizaciones externas] or interaction with startups, universities or research centers ", mentioned José Antonio Pascual, head of digital development & ecosystem of Siemens Gamesa.
Pascual agrees that it is essential that companies have "digital talent", understood as "those people who combine a business vision and processes with a vision of technologies". And he warns that for these experts to be able to carry out the required changes, they need to have "management support".
The paradox, therefore, is that in a world in which technologies are gaining increasing presence, the human factor can not be left aside. In addition, it is necessary to take into account the reluctance of some workers to these changes, and companies must know how to convey the need for this transformation, concluded Pascual. "The first thing you have to do is transform people," said Henar.
In any case, the companies agree that the arrival of the "machines", no matter how smart they are, does not mean the disappearance of the workers and is that, as González pointed out, "it is a revolution made by people for the people". Therefore, Henar summarized, it will be necessary to rely on the technological part, but also on the human part.
Talgo is an example of this. Today, much of the supervision work that was done in the 50 by the routes that traveled on their trains has been replaced by sensors installed in the machines, although the work of these routes is still essential in the field of "interior design ":" If we have a noise, we are still not able to have it sensorized, "he said as an example Henar.
Therefore, it is essential to combine technology and people, and within these, digital talent with experience. "Digital talent only leads us to an overly technological approach and the experience we have in the company without this digital talent does not allow us to articulate the speed demanded by technologies," Castro stressed. The Airbus executive focused on the need for companies to have great diversity in their workforce, be it gender, age or skills.
Another problem that is slowing down this digitalization is the difficulty that managers and staff of companies find to assume the changes that mean the availability of this huge amount of data. "We went from a model of 'what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas' to a model based on Big Brother," said the director of Gestamp. In this way González referred to the change that implies that until now the team leader communicated to his manager what had happened in the day, with the nuances that he wanted, while now the manager already knows what happened and wants to know why he has been like this
Along with the challenge focused on people, companies face the technological challenge of implementing changes at a speed that their rigid structure makes it difficult. "Large companies have very established processes that slow down these changes," Castro said.
All these difficulties have led to the digitization process being at an advanced stage in only 6% of the companies analyzed by Capgemini, a minority that they call digital masters or experts in digital transformation, said Carlos García Santos, vice president of industry at Capgemini Invent. The rest of the companies are still in an initial phase, looking for how to go from isolated initiatives to launching projects globally and achieving results. In this sense, for the manager of Grupo Antolín, the first thing that big companies must do is "cut the inertia and have the agility that industry 4.0 demands".
Once this obstacle is overcome, the first stage of this process of evolution involves "removing fear" and learning and listening, Sánchez said. "The first thing is to see, learn and be able, based on this knowledge, to make a competitive analysis", that is, to find out where these technological enablers can help to improve the competitiveness of each business.
The second phase would be to experiment by launching pilot projects, and the third and last, to massively implement these new solutions. And it is in this last stage in which they make the big bets at the level of investment and resources.
However, Castro does not agree with this division of stages and considers that the first phase "must occur all the time". In Airbus they are clear that it is necessary "to maintain a very lively activity in everything related to innovation and the connection with the ecosystem to innovate". This is because, as he stressed, the speed of technology is higher than that of the companies themselves, which forces them to question their strategy permanently. In this sense, a year ago, Airbus opened the BizLab in Madrid, the vehicle used by this aeronautical company to connect with the startups and maintain this constant innovation.
In any case, so that these initiatives are not isolated successes, Luengo sees as fundamental "the creation of competence centers and transformation bodies that have a continuity over time" -like the Airbus BizLab-, as well as establishing a "priority map" "Not to get lost among so many possibilities. And as pointed out by Donato Martínez, chief technology officer of Navantia, "the challenge is how to go from individual projects to a system that helps the organization to innovate continuously".
Above all these benefits that new technologies are providing to companies, there is the fact that Spain is exporting its advance in digitization and gaining weight abroad. Therefore, the 4.0 industry is not only an opportunity to increase the competitiveness of companies, but to boost the Spain brand, concluded Henar. To which Pascual joined and called not to forget who is the last client of this whole process: "Society".
Political changes. The call for elections on April 28 leaves no scope for uncertainty. Despite the fact that a large part of the investment in industry 4.0 depends on private companies -for example, Airbus invests 8% of its revenues in R & D + i, that is, eight times more than the national average, according to the signature – there is a fundamental contribution for industrialization to follow its path that must come from the Government, either in terms of training or through policies that encourage innovation. An example of this is the growing demand for new profiles that dominate new technologies and in this field, the University has a fundamental role. In any case, Juan Ignacio Castro emphasizes that, although he recognizes that companies must make the effort with economic investment, we must "ask the Administration to make the industry a priority", due to its role as a generator of employment and its profile of exporters. This also implies that the changes in the Moncloa do not affect the measures taken in this direction: "Regardless of who governs, there should be clear and agreed policies in certain aspects, and innovation is one of them," said Luis Alfonso Hayfield.
Global uncertainty To the political changes that are taking place in Spain must be added other sources of uncertainty arising from the transformations that are taking place within business – as is the case of the automotive sector – or geopolitical tensions – with trade wars flying over the economies of the whole world. For this instability does not negatively affect the progress of digitalization, Mario Sanchez believes that regulatory security is essential or, in the words of Castro, that "the strategic plans remain in time regardless of the parties that govern." In addition, David Luengo stressed the responsibility that companies and governments have in this regard because progress in innovation "will be key to the progress of the country in terms of competitiveness or improvement and will transform society."