The industry is undergoing a deep revolution in Europe. In France, the erosion of industrial activity relative to the Gross Domestic Product has finally come to a halt, after years of decline. In Europe, countries like Germany and Italy are already enjoying countless industrial champions, from SMEs to multinationals, capable of conquering world markets!
Under the influence of three main drivers, the 2020s will profoundly reshape the face of the industry. What are they ?
First off, production chains are being relocated, at least partially, as close as possible to consumers. This movement makes it possible to improve the environmental balance of products, an increasingly obvious request from consumers in Europe and in many countries, to reduce delivery times and meet society's expectations in terms of employment.
Second, manufacturers have to bring new products to the market at a higher rate than ever. Exacerbated international competition, due to the globalization started since the 2000s, and the emergence of hitherto unknown competitors, thanks to technological breakthroughs, have in fact shortened (in general) the lifecycles of products and services.
Finally, digitization is about to spread through every step of design and manufacturing, from information and production management systems, to R&D, through coordination of suppliers and CRM. For example, 3D printing is allowing production in small or medium series, which is lowering the traditional critical size to penetrate some industrial markets. The generalization of sensors and the Internet of Things in the factory, robotization and artificial intelligence are gradually providing industrials with extraordinary tools to better conduct their production and maintenance activities. From the exploitation of these myriads of data pieces, companies are finally drawing lessons to be able to manufacture more references in smaller batches. Doing so, won't manufacturers also shorten their deadlines and reduce their costs? These are two other goals that digitization should make it easier to reach.
Of course, this overhaul of industrial practices in Europe should be accompanied by changes in organization and human resources. The increased technological content and the greater flexibility of the manufacturing means are leading to a gain of autonomy on the part of operators and middle management... a last nail in the coffin of good-old taylorism or the remnants of it. While pursuing the still desirable approaches inherited from previous decades (total quality, continuous improvement, lean ...), it is fair to transform organizations by lowering hierarchical levels and increasing the degree of freedom of process islands and teams. At the same time, significant efforts to train staff will be essential. Already, men are learning to collaborate with industrial robots, as if they were mere colleagues ("cobots").
It is by striving for excellence across its entire value chain that the industrial company will retain or even gain market share. Easy to write, the challenges for each function are more difficult to implement and to sustain in time! Here are some good examples, however: