The concept of the factory of the future has taken shape with the Industry 4.0 programs born in industrialized countries (Japan, United States, European Union …). The aim is to restore the image of the industry so that it creates more value, where its weight in the GDP of our countries has greatly decreased over the past decade.

Why Industry 4.0? Because with it, the factory integrates digital tools in the broadest sense, which is considered the fourth industrial revolution after mechanization, electrification and automation.

There are many challenges for the factory: to be more competitive and agile, customer-oriented (perfect quality and traceability), to be part of a real-time sharing network with suppliers and customers, to be clean, economical and silent, to eliminate tasks that are difficult for people, to take advantage of the Internet of Things to ensure the traceability of operations, etc…

The installation of digital and connected equipment (tablets, numerically controlled machine tools or rapid prototyping machines), but above all the networking of all these elements with the different actors of the company, customers and suppliers, generate a huge amount of data to be processed. The processing of this data gives the company the ability to create a strong optimization of products and processes upstream of the value chain (3D simulation, digital twin, CAD …), to fluidify or eliminate obesity of structures/processes/intermediate activities (industrial intelligence, predictive algorithms …) and to have a very close relationship with the customer (personalized response to the request, processed immediately …).

These improvements can especially lead to the relocation of plants, smaller in size, but more agile, able to adapt to the customer’s demand in real time. The ultimate step is, by adding artificial intelligence, to make the plant autonomous in its procurement, production and deliveries (controlled plant, self-regulated based on measured data and compared with the results of powerful forecasting algorithms to correct parameters and manufacturing orders in real time).

The transformation of the plant to a 4.0, ultra-efficient plant aims to produce on demand and at a lower cost. But the factory of the future also has the ambition (often put aside) to adapt to new behaviors and consumption patterns. Where Plant 4.0 is part of a mass consumption economy, the plant of the future is part of a more responsible economy, attentive to the ever more rapid changes in customer behavior and societal expectations.


1. From the mechanized plant to the automated and connected, even autonomous plant: a means of acting on performance

In industries where production is continuous, it is natural that manufacturing functions see an opportunity to improve performance, using digital tools and new technologies to improve indicators.

This step is necessary and pays off. Launching of projects on the energy efficiency of industrial processes, the use of non-destructive testing or big data for production intelligence offers a huge potential for savings. And more generally, the profusion of applications aimed at digitizing all types of processes to relieve human stress or improve efficiency has only one goal: to make today’s plant better, more productive, more profitable. The factory of the future is then seen as a fully automated or even autonomous augmented factory thanks to a few additions of artificial intelligence.

For mass consumption markets where the approach is to produce continuously and reduce costs as much as possible (supply chain control, design and manufacturing optimization), the Factory 4.0 is equivalent to a digitalized and connected factory. High-performing, it nevertheless has a short-term approach that supports the search for rapid ROI.


Examples of applications from the automotive industry.

  • An application of the digitized factory: cycle time optimization.
    Cycle time optimization is a decision support application. It is one of the many other applications born from the real-time connection to machines and the processing of their data history. Where in the past decision support was done on the scale of one or a small group of machines, it is now done remotely and on the scale of a line or a workshop. These applications are full of indicators and use alerts to highlight drifts or blocking points. The next step? A few artificial intelligence algorithms can be used both to predict drifts and to correct machine parameters in real time. The entire plant becomes a controlled system.


  • A second application of the digitized factory: skills management and improved training
    In the digital factory, operators who perform low value-added tasks are gradually being replaced by machines. Tasks with high added value become the company’s know-how on which it is necessary to capitalize. The digital tool makes it possible to encapsulate the knowledge and then transmit it more efficiently. Virtual training applications, creation of tutorials in video, augmented reality or virtual reality meet this need. Fewer operators are present in the industry, but they are more qualified, better trained and the challenge is to make their replacement less costly.

2. L’ambition de l’usine du futur est de prendre en compte les tendances sociétales au même titre que les besoins des clients en produits et services

L’usine 4.0 pour servir la performance ? Oui, mais en tenant comptes des évolutions rapides des aspirations des clients dans un contexte d’ouverture internationale, technologique, économique et sociale.

Zoom on : Toyota

The company communicates on the vehicle made in France thanks to its factory in Valenciennes for vehicles sold on the French market

This is an opportunity for the industry and in particular the factory to be at the heart of a “hyper-customization” for the customer. We are not only talking about the product or its associated services (it is already possible to customize them in many industries) but also about the ways of manufacturing for which the customer is willing to pay a price. Let’s take the example of the automotive industry: knowing that the factory is ultra-efficient to produce its vehicles is unfortunately not valuable today and may even be a barrier to purchasing in the future. On the other hand, knowing that your vehicle has been manufactured on a local line, with skilled workers, in an environmentally friendly manner can become a differentiating and valuable element.

The plant is controlled by the customer. Not only for immediate requests: certainly, if the customer wants to change the color of his car until the day before delivery, the factory must be able to satisfy him. The ever-increasing integration of software in so far mainly manufacturing industries enables this hyper-customization. The use of nanoDELs in the vehicle body offers the possibility of a remote color change option through an update of the vehicle software. The same goes for the addition of power to the vehicle’s engine: it can be monetized remotely according to the client’s specific needs (150 additional HP rented by the day, week, month, etc.).

The plant is controlled by the customer. We are not just talking about a factory driven by customer data. If showing the customer that a product has been manufactured with 30% less energy than the competition allows it to be sold for 10% more, the factory of the future must be organized in this way. If a low level of automation with operators assisted in difficult tasks has a higher value in the eyes of the customer than the gain generated by a fully automated line, it is in this sense that the factory of the future has a greater ambition. The trend follows this course: the customer is increasingly sensitive to local, responsible or clean production. In addition, new entrants from historical industries (automotive, semiconductors, etc.) are increasingly positioning themselves in this way.

Pagamon, consulting firm in Strategy & Organization founded in March 2013, assists industry players to structure their strategic vision, improve the operational performance of their business and sustain change in organizations.

We help clients within the automotive industry, agri-food, life sciences and several other industries . Our areas of expertise are:

  • Strategy & Organization
  • Marketing & Customer Experience
  • Innovation & Development
  • Digital transformation & Big Data

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