Engineering

Industry 4.0: how do you become a Factory of the Future?

How does a company ensure that it is still successful within five, ten, or fifteen years? Agoria's highly coveted "Factory of the Future" award measures 7 transformations among the participants. AUSY partner TE Connectivity explains how they made the change and thus won an award twice.

Luk Hiltrop, Plant Director at TE Connectivity: 'We hope to win this award for the third time in 20/21. For us, "Factory of the Future" is a road to operational excellence. We are currently doing well as a company, but how can we ensure that this will still be the case within 10 years? That's why I look at it in an adaptive rather than in a flexible context: people are key in this exercise, not the machines.'

Factory of the Future?

Agoria, the Belgian employers' organization for technology-inspired companies, worked out a system with several partners to maximize the competitiveness of companies. In total, 7 transformations are necessary to win the coveted "Factory of the Future" award. Within these 7 domains, you must obtain at least a score of 80%. But in fact, it's bigger than just that, since Agoria assumes that people are at the heart of the company.  

Luk adds: 'In the beginning, change causes resistance. However, it's crucial not to postpone anything and start immediately. You have to create a sense of urgency, which will make everyone in the company realize the importance of the change. In the beginning, only a few people have to get on board: they can help sell your message. The others will follow step by step.'

There is no 'one size fits all' solution. Every company has different needs. Within the 7 domains, these needs are highlighted and dealt with. It is crucial to increase efficiency in all areas without losing track of the people. The biggest challenge for companies is often to take the time to get inspired by other things.

The importance of taking steps forward

Research shows that a 'Factory of the Future' creates jobs (+ 14% of employment), increases sales and productivity, and make investments grow (850 million overall). The next step in this process is to take it to an international level. This methodology does not stop at national borders, but can also score in other European countries. The intention is to set up learning networks to spread knowledge.

These awards have been presented for five years. Already 32 companies have won an award, including a few AUSY partners such as Daikin, TE Connectivity, Rousselot ... Last year, 12 of the 28 companies that participated succeeded.

'It is easiest to start harvesting the low hanging fruits,' Luk explains. 'Moreover, we celebrate every successful change to ensure that everyone shares in the success. Our motto is 'let people believe we are a brilliant company. That’s why we use the growth of a diamond (a brilliant) to measure our success. We have now reached the highest level, but our goal is to do even better and raise the bar even higher. After all, it is important to keep taking steps forward. With this approach, we want to win the award for the third time. Given the new European context of the process, we can hopefully soon say, for example, to a German company that this factory from Oostkamp was already a 'Factory of the Future' 10 years ago (laughs).'

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