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The Printers and Industry 4.0 (Part 1)

19 May 2020

A paradigm shift is announced in the manufacturing industry and printing houses are also affected.

To understand the introduction and the scope of the Industry 4.0 concept in the printing industry, it is interesting to refer to the initiatives of the European Commission to accompany SMEs towards this transition 4.0 announced as very promising both in terms of operational efficiency and in the innovation of products, services and business models. 

The European Commission is already financing a few projects related to Industry 4.0 but the first important research initiative in this concept started in January 2017 with the project SME 4.0 – Industry 4.0 for SMEs—Smart Manufacturing and Logistics for SMEs in an X-to-order and Mass Customization Environment[1] funding from the European Commission H2020 MSCA Research and Innovation Staff Exchange (RISE) program. The project is to be completed by the end of 2020. 

The project is organized into three research fields (RF) (Fig. 1): (i) smart manufacturing in SMEs, specific solutions for (ii) smart logistics in SMEs and (iii) adapted organization and management models for the introduction of Industry 4.0 and the management of smart SMEs.

Fig. 1. Research fields and topics in the SME 4.0 project

Its ambition is to answer the following research questions:

A. Identification of requirements for Industry 4.0 applications and implementation in SME manufacturing and logistics:

– What are the actual known concepts and technologies of Industry 4.0?

– What are the main opportunities/risks for the use of these concepts in SMEs?

– How suitable are the different concepts for application in SMEs?

– What are SME-specific requirements for the adaptation of the most promising concepts and technologies?

B. Development of SME-specific concepts and strategies for smart and intelligent SME manufacturing and logistics:

– What are possible forms or migration levels for realizing smart and intelligent manufacturing systems for x-to-order and mass customization production?

– How can automation, advanced manufacturing technologies, ICT, and CPS improve productivity in SME manufacturing and logistics?

– What are suitable models for smart and lean supply chains in SME logistics?

C. Development of specific organization and management models for smart SMEs:

– What are innovative and promising new business models for smart SMEs?

– What are optimal implementation strategies for the introduction of Industry 4.0 in SMEs?

– What are ideal organizational models for smart SMEs or SME networks?

All these questions are those that all entrepreneurs and managers of SMEs in the graphics industries are invited to ask themselves in order to fully grasp the benefits but also the pitfalls to be avoided in this industrial transformation 4.0 project.

We notice that even if the concept was introduced nearly ten years ago, and that very early on manufacturers and constructors in the graphic industries seized the wave of digitisation and the potential brought by this concept of Industry 4.0, the subject is relatively “young” and unexplored, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises, to which most European printing works belong.

This is why we propose to answer it in our next posts.


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