In recent years, the "Factory of the Future" (FoF) concept has gained considerable attention within the European manufacturing industry. But what does it actually mean for small and medium-sized manufacturing enterprises (SMEs) in Europe, especially for those moving their first steps in their digitalisation journey?
In this blog, we want to delve into the concept and shed light on the very concrete and tangible advantages digital transformation can bring to a company, in terms of productivity, international competitiveness, and efficiency.
First things first, what is a “Factory of the Future”?
The European Factories of the Future Research Association (EFFRA) defines the Factory of the Future as "an environment where technology, people and processes come together in a smart way to create more flexible, efficient and sustainable manufacturing systems”. In other words, it is a highly automated and digital factory that can adapt to the fast-paced international markets and ever-changing customer needs.
The Factory of the Future represents the next step in the evolution of the manufacturing industry, enabling companies to improve productivity, competitiveness, and efficiency through the adoption of digital technologies. While the transition to a Factory of the Future may seem to be challenging for companies, the benefits are significant, particularly for SMEs looking to compete on the global stage. With the right investments in technology, training, and process engineering, SMEs can successfully make the transition to a Factory of the Future and benefit from improved efficiency, increased productivity, and enhanced competitiveness.
The Factories of the Future Roadmap
Considering the crucial need to accelerate the transformation towards Industry 4.0 and 5.0, the European Union established a €1.15 billion public-private partnership (PPP) for advanced manufacturing research and innovation to realise the next industrial revolution. Factories of the Future brings together pan-European SMEs, universities, research organisation and associations to promote the development of new and innovative production technologies and strengthen their technological base.
At the heart of EFFRA’s strategy, the “Factories of the Future Roadmap” lays down five key priorities:
- Agile value networks: Lot-size one–distributed manufacturing.
- Excellence in manufacturing: Advanced manufacturing processes and services for zero-defect and innovative processes and products.
- The human factor: Developing human competencies in synergy with technological progress.
- Sustainable value networks: Manufacturing driving the circular economy.
- Inter-operable digital manufacturing platforms: Supporting an ecosystem of manufacturing services.
The advantages of becoming a Factory of the Future
Transforming an SME into a Factory of the Future can bring several advantages:
- Increased efficiency: by adopting advanced technologies, such as automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence, SMEs can increase their production efficiency, reduce waste, and optimise their operations.
- Improved quality: with the help of advanced monitoring and quality control systems, SMEs can produce high-quality products consistently, leading to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
- Enhanced flexibility: by implementing digital manufacturing technologies, SMEs can respond quickly to changes in demand and market trends, enabling them to adapt to new challenges and opportunities.
- Better use of resources: Factories of the Future rely on data analytics and machine learning algorithms to optimize resource usage, which helps SMEs save energy and reduce material waste. Moreover, the adoption of digital technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and advanced analytics can improve the efficiency of manufacturing processes, reducing production times and costs. The Factory of the Future also enables the integration of all aspects of the value chain, from the design and development of products to the delivery to customers, allowing for real-time monitoring and optimization of the entire manufacturing process.
- Increased competitiveness: with the help of technology, SMEs can compete with larger companies in terms of productivity, quality, and cost-effectiveness in the European and global markets. In addition, the ability to quickly adapt to changing markets and customer needs allows SMEs to develop new products and services faster, giving them a competitive edge in the marketplace.
Become a Factory of the Future with dedicated support
Overall, transforming an SME into a factory of the future can lead to improved efficiency, quality, flexibility, resource utilization, and competitiveness, which can help them succeed in today's fast-changing business environment.
While the benefits of digitalisation are clear, transforming a company into a Factory of the Future can be a complex process, particularly for SMEs. To successfully transition to a Factory of the Future, companies need to adopt a holistic approach that considers all aspects of the manufacturing process, from product design to delivery. This requires a significant investment in technology, training, and process reengineering.
Here is where the ADMA TranS4MErs project comes into play. As one of the biggest European transformation programmes, ADMA TranS4MErs offers a comprehensive and dynamic approach to digital transformation, helping companies across the continent achieve their full potential. The Transformation Programme offers vouchers to design and implement your Digital Transformation Plan and boost your journey towards becoming a Factory of the Future in two stages: Design and Revamp.
Up to 800 selected SMEs will receive funding to work with our certified knowledge brokers, the TranS4MErs, to build their tailored digital transformation journey.
We are now accepting applications to the second Open Call, with the first selection deadline coming up on June 7, 2023. Vouchers are allocated on a first come first serve criteria, so do not wait to apply!
To learn more about the eligibility criteria, vouchers available per country, and the application process visit www.trans4mers.eu/open-calls