KETs can ‘strengthen European industry’

Key enabling technologies can be instrumental in generating jobs, ensuring sustainability and improving competitiveness through improved manufacturing, argues Dariusz Ceglarek.

By Dariusz Ceglarek

01 Oct 2014

I am very pleased that Bologna will host a significant international conference with the aim of discussing the role of key enabling technologies for sustainable manufacturing highlighted by Horizon 2020. Horizon 2020 with its 'factories of the future' (FoF) public-private partnership centred on the priorities of FoF 2020, an ambitious and far-sighted strategic roadmap. The 2014 leading enabling technologies for societal challenges (LET'S) conference provides an ideal platform to discuss and propel leading ideas and essential paradigms that are currently shaping high performance sustainable production.

The importance of manufacturing to generate wealth and create highly skilled jobs is widely recognised. Indeed more than 80 per cent of total EU exports come from manufactured products. Manufacturing creates more value across the economy per euro spent than any other sector and it is crucial to raise the share of manufacturing in the EU's GDP.

Sustainable manufacturing plays a crucial role in a sustainable society by providing environmental and economic benefits, and is an important factor in shaping social relations. Of course, the development of sustainable manufacturing requires key enabling technologies that can help industries to better understand and respond to environmental, societal and economic challenges that can bring about the paradigm shift that is needed to create high performance production technologies. This is especially important in the context of globalisation.

“Manufacturing creates more value across the economy per euro spent than any other sector and it is crucial to raise the share of manufacturing in the EU’s GDP”

Indeed, globalisation Coupled with product customisation and steadily decreasing time to market have spearheaded unprecedented levels of competition among manufacturers making high performance sustainable production an essential feature by which to address ever growing consumer demand for greater variety of goods and services. At its core, this means producing zero-defects products and services faster, better and cheaper and accomplishing these by ensuring high rate of 'right-first-time'.

To be successful in today's intensely competitive market, manufacturers must employ high performance sustainable production systems that can first test the production of products and services across the entire lifecycle before actual production has even begun. This can be achieved by employing emerging enabling technologies such as 'lifecycle analytics' that contribute towards a new paradigm of creating closed-loop production systems and factories.

The principles guiding closed-loop production systems and factories result from realities on the ground – that products, manufacturing processes and interlinked services are challenged by evolving external drivers such as new regulations, new materials, technologies, services and communications, the pressure on cost and sustainability – all of which requires coordinated co-evolution of products, production systems and services. To address these challenges new enabling technologies need to be developed based on simulation tools with capabilities to simulate not only products, but also processes and services in the whole product lifecycle, to achieve 'right-first-time' capabilities; data warehouses which capture heterogeneous data and information from the whole product lifecycle, and lifecycle analytics and data mining which can take advantage of cloud computing technologies to eliminate product and process failures in keeping with creating zero-defect products and services.

“The importance of manufacturing to generate wealth and create highly skilled jobs is widely recognised”

Developing the needed key enabling technologies will require new interdisciplinary research and innovative efforts that can link cyber-physical systems with current FoF public-private partnerships. I am confident that results will lead to the development of a next generation FoF, meaning eco and resilient factories with capabilities for flexible and distributed production which are able to self-recover from product failures and changes.

Of course, developing key enabling technologies is just part of the equation. Their rapid deployment is equally, if not even more, important. Together this can strengthen European industry.

To accomplish this will require a new level of verification and validation of the developed key enabling technologies via mid-size pilot studies that go beyond simplified case studies by including provisions for testing with real products and services. As we observe from our own FP7-FoF programme, 'Remote laser welding system navigator for eco and resilient automotive factories', this is important as it will yield essential understanding of the maturity of the technology and uncover factors required to embed these technologies into the production system. This is crucial as production systems include a spectrum of technologies and any developed key enabling technology must be able to fit into existing systems.

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