Factories 4.0: The Future of European Manufacturing

European cooperation in the form of the EU’s ‘Factories of the Future’ partnership is enabling a transformation of advanced manufacturing through digitisation and by unleashing a new wave of similar national and regional initiatives.

This is a guest blogpost written by Mr Željko Pazin, Executive Director of EFFRA

As I write, manufacturing in Europe is undergoing a transformation. Digitisation is at the centre of this transformation. Consequently, it is also central to the EU’s ‘Factories of the Future’ Public-Private partnership (PPP).

Through the ‘Factories of the Future’ partnership we are working to realise the ‘industry 4.0’ vision. At this stage, over 240 projects have been launched with the involvement of 2,000 organizations from across Europe. Through this European cooperation, we are integrating digital technology, robotics and artificial intelligence into advanced manufacturing from the factory floor to networked factories.

Why is this important? Because manufacturing in Europe represents a significant part of the economy. It provides high skilled jobs and enables us to produce technologies that meet our societal and environmental needs. For Europe, manufacturing provides thirty million direct jobs and sixty million indirect jobs. It is responsible for eighty percent of Europe’s exports and generates a turnover of €7 trillion. The digitisation of manufacturing will increase this impact as industry creates new types of jobs, manufactures in dynamic ways and provides state-of-the-art goods and services.

Since the early days of our ‘Factories of the Future’ partnership, Europe’s advanced manufacturing community has prioritised digitisation. For us, digitisation means more than the installation of new ICT or high-speed connectivity. It is a complete transformation of where, how and why we manufacture. It is shaping the factory floor, products, the skills of workers and integrating services and supply chains.

As I look forward, towards the outcome of our efforts, I can already picture the future factory. We call this vision ‘Factoriesy 4.0’. These factories will be home to advanced manufacturing processes with adaptive and smart manufacturing systems at their centre. Manufacturing within them will be human-centred while integrating collaborative robots and artificial intelligence systems. They will be customer focused, energy and resource efficient. This will be possible only through digitisation. 

As our ‘Factories of the Future’ partnership has developed, so too have national and regional advanced manufacturing programmes. Often inspired by the European example, many national & regional initiatives (among them Italian National Technology Cluster “Fabbrica Intelligente”) have laid out their own strategic agendas and provided funding to achieve their advanced manufacturing priorities. I am pleased to add that as we in the ‘Factories of the Future’ partnership have been deploying activities at a European level, we have developed strong links with national and regional initiatives.

I can confidently state that without the inspiration of an advanced manufacturing partnership which embraces digitisation at European level, the argument for national and regional action would have been harder to make. Therefore, I am very pleased that the European Union will formalise our European-level relationships with other national and regional initiatives through a new European platform of national initiatives. The platform, named EU Industry 4.0 (EUI4.0) will be launched at the Digital Day in Rome (March 23rd), an event marking the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome. I am confident that Europe’s advanced manufacturing community will embrace this new platform

From the early days of the European idea to the present, practical cooperation has been at the heart of the European story. As the European project turns sixty we must remember that cooperation between us at EU, national and regional level is the best way for us to ensure economic and social prosperity for Europeans.