3 Industry 4.0 trends in Europe

Industry 4.0 faces challenges related to the energy crisis and the perception of unreachability for small and medium-sized companies. Data management is the starting point for digital transformation, prioritizing its ordering and strategic processing. The human factor and customer needs must guide any digital transformation strategy.

Three focuses from today where we must look at digital transformation

Talking about Industry 4.0 is impossible without the influence of the context and today we find ourselves facing important challenges that are having a full impact.

The first is related to the macro scenario. If the first great and recent “reset” for the world - but in particular for companies - was Covid-19 (because it was the situation that allowed digital transformation to accelerate by leaps and bounds) what is taking place in These moments are a second great “reset” that is related to the energy issue.

In Europe, there is enormous concern about the rationalization of energy. Although European countries have been emphasizing this aspect for a long time, today the situation is much more delicate.

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, fossil energy costs have skyrocketed, causing inflation levels around the world. The current energy crisis, in fact, is proof of the risks of continuing to depend on fossil fuels and this is especially important for industries.

In this sense, Europe's great fear today is that industries will stop producing due to lack of energy. Energy today is more expensive than ever and taking care of it is a basic need. We see examples of countries that are using every last energy resource they have, even considering the use of alternatives such as nuclear energy. In companies, energy costs seek to be reduced as much as possible, for example in some cases, the home office is being re-evaluated just to reduce expenses on infrastructure and maintenance. All efforts are aimed at not running out of energy and paying the lowest possible costs.

Another major axis that I want to refer to is that Industry 4.0 continues to be a label to indicate the new phase of the industrial revolution that we are going through, but it is true that many small and medium-sized companies still continue to perceive it as distant, unattainable or related to technologies such as robotics or artificial intelligence; the latter, perceived as complex technological stages and outside their orbit.

The reality is that Industry 4.0 is inclusive for any organization. According to the European Union's own definition of digital transformation, creating an e-commerce, uploading data to the cloud or creating an email marketing campaign is already undergoing digital transformation.

In this sense, another point to take into account is what is the focus to begin this transformation: data is the center of a 4.0 strategy. Bearing in mind that digital transformation is about simple and accessible processes that are within the reach of this type of company, what it is about is being clear that the first step is data management: start working on the orderly management of That information in a strategic way is the priority, with clear and coherent processes.

I would like to insist on the fact that data is the starting point when you want to begin a digital transformation. I say this because I usually come across companies that want to follow this path, starting with projects or initiatives that follow the trend of the moment: just as the development of apps was years ago, today "artificial intelligence solutions" seem to be the fashionable requirement, without matter the why or rather, the why. The organization of the data is the number one priority; in a second moment, the convenience of taking other paths of digital transformation of greater complexity will be evaluated.

Finally, whatever the stage of a digital transformation, technologies are never above people. The human factor (talent training and customer needs) is the main focus that should always guide the design of a data strategy in Industry 4.0.

Julio Cesar Blanco – January 24, 2023

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