Industry 4.0

While ICT and digitalization are providing for evolutionary steps by doing existing things more efficiently, innovation in manufacturing processes in the chemical industry is about making better things exist.

The chemical industry should therefore constantly remind EU and national authorities that it is also part of the new industrial revolution and that this concept is not only reserved for concepts such as 3-D printing and comprises more than digitalization alone. Especially with the SPIRE PPP the chemical industry can therefore well position itself as part of the 4th Industrial revolution. Is there another role for Cefic (and federations) in this context?

What is Industry 4.0 about?

Industry 4.0 is a term used to label the forthcoming fourth industrial revolution. At national level, e.g. in Germany, Chancellor Merkel considers the ongoing digitalization of the economy a great opportunity and has put Industry 4.0, defined as the integration of smart factories and the Internet of Things, high on the German government's Digital Agenda. Based on cyber-physical systems and Internet of Things paradigms, in future factories all elements such as products, the component, machines and robots, process and production lines/networks will communicate. Industrial production of the future will be characterized by the strong individualization of products under the conditions of highly flexible (large series) production, the extensive integration of customers and business partners in business and value-added processes, and the linking of production and high-quality services leading to so-called hybrid products.

What is on the agenda of the European Commission and the Member States?

Innovation in digital manufacturing is the subject of many innovation initiatives by the European Union, the Member States and its regions, e.g. at EU-level: Factories of the Future Public Private Partnership, jointly managed between DG RTD and DG CONNECT (ICT for Manufacturing) in partnership with EFFRA, and the I4MS initiative (ICT innovation for manufacturing SMEs), in the Member States: Industrie 4.0 (DE), Smart Industry (NL), Usine du Futur (FR), Catapult High Value Manufacturing (UK), Produktion2030 etc..

One aspect concerns how to maximise the contribution of ICT in manufacturing to generate growth, competitiveness and jobs in Europe and how to leverage national and regional efforts in this area to speed up the modernisation of the European industry. Commission President Juncker has emphasized that Europe must make better use of the potential offered by digital technologies. More specifically, he wants digital research to lead to successful European innovation stories, encouraging entrepreneurship and providing a framework that drives start-ups, the take-up of new businesses and job-creation. Juncker argues that the Commission needs to play its role in ensuring that promising new developments such as the cloud, the Internet of Things and big data can thrive in Europe and that citizens, innovative web entrepreneurs and other businesses can take full advantage of their potential.

What role for the chemical industry?

The discussion around manufacturing 4.0 tends to focus on the use of ICT in the production of discrete products. Use of ICT systems in the chemical industry is not a new phenomenon, since decades it makes extensive use of ICT systems throughout its value chain, from logistics, to modelling, design, control, monitoring and repair. Controlling processes to continuously run at maximum efficiency can deliver enormous benefits in terms of resource efficiency, product quality and competitiveness. Implementation of new closed-loop control concepts with emphasis on process automation will make it possible to operate industrial processes at their optimum, both economically and ecologically along with an improved safety. The chemical industry considers ICT and digitalization thus primarily as a tool, not an end in itself. Digitalization is not only of importance for discrete manufacturing but also for processing industries which are engaged in continuous manufacturing.

The digitalisation of process manufacturing has the potential to raise the competitiveness of our industry by e.g. allowing improved modelling on new processes and monitoring devices resulting in better use of feedstock (oil, bio and CO2), higher quality products (e.g. lightweight materials) and more efficient use of "Big Data".

The link between digitalization and processing goes however further and is only a part of the broader research agenda of the chemical industry. One example of real process innovation is the PPP SPIRE. SPIRE brings together cement, ceramics, chemicals, engineering, minerals and ores, non-ferrous metals, steel and water that all have high dependence on resources in their production. This cross-sectoral research and innovation roadmap provides the pathway for the Process industry to decouple energy and resource consumption from growth and achieve increased competitiveness in the European process industry. SPIRE will implement this roadmap through various components, including for example higher levels of alternative and renewable feedstock, industrial symbiosis, valorisation and re-use of waste streams within and across sectors, process intensification, new holistic energy and resource management systems.

This can lead to a reduction in parts of the industry in fossil energy intensity of up to 30% from current levels by 2030 and of 20% reduction in non-renewable, primary raw materials intensity, e.g. by increasing chemical and physical transformation yields/or using secondary and renewable raw materials. To achieve all this, digitalization and ICT are key elements as well.