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OP-ED: Building Society 5.0

OP-ED: Building Society 5.0

Industry 4.0 was more or a less a ten-year project, but already the question as to what happens next is being raised in the face of major transformations such as climate change, new pandemics, redefined globalization and increased migratory flows.

By Olivier Hertelin, VP Sales – France, Benelux & Switzerland, and Managing Director of PTC France

Four Major Challenges

The first challenge is just as great as the continued accumulation of greenhouse gases by humans in the atmosphere. Climate change is leading to more frequent and more violent storms, longer periods of drought, faster melting of glaciers, coastal retreat, and depleted biodiversity.

The second challenge is the more frequent occurrence of pandemics. Over the last twenty years, the world has experienced five health crises with varying degrees of severity, including Ebola, H1N1, SARS, avian flu and COVID-19. They are the result of overexploitation of the wilderness and climate change, and the crossover between them is now clear.

The third challenge is globalization. It has reshaped the world’s industrial equilibrium over the last thirty years enabling some countries to raise their standard of living (China, South-East Asia). However, the upset in supply chains, caused specifically by COVID-19, has revealed how much Western countries depend on certain inputs (paracetamol for example) and products (masks, respirators, etc.). This level of dependency quickly reveals a country’s autonomy.

The fourth and final challenge is migration. Inevitably, climate refugees will join the growing ranks of economic and political refugees. We need to prepare for that.

Cooperation between Industry and Government 

All these threats give rise to fear, which is never a good advisor. Should governments be left to deal with these challenges alone? Definitely not. Companies are not just economic players; they are also engines for social change. They have a key role to play in dealing with these changes, which are already impacting industrial companies’ organization and production costs.

Industry 4.0 – which represents digital continuity and connects the physical and digital worlds to improve operational efficiency and competitiveness – needs to redefine its objectives by moving up to Industry 5.0 against the backdrop of Society 5.0. To do so, industry and governments have no choice but to work together.

Carbon Neutrality Ahead

Dealing with climate change starts with decarbonization. Industrial companies are responsible for designing low-carbon products and production tools. Third-party supply of “green” energy and self-generation on production sites are already increasing.

To make reasonable use of natural resources, eco-design is the best answer. It aims to save on materials, spend less on manufacturing processes and source as close as possible to the place of production. Products are examined right from their design up to the end of their life cycle.

Continuity of Service 

The change in working methods towards remote cooperation has put a renewed sheen on new technologies and put new technologies at the heart of the debate. Remote management of tasks usually performed in situ is now possible with digital continuity, connected objects, augmented reality and access to SaaS. Factories will continue to operate even during a health crisis. 

Fair and Flexible Globalisation

The path towards reasoned globalization is possible with new technologies optimizing remote cooperation between partners to design products and manage the performance of industrial sites. These Industry 4.0 technologies are reinventing training and transfer of know-how between teams. With them, it is even possible to proactively manage equipment failures and shortage of raw materials and components. 

Flexible work organization and agile production lines are within reach. All this will culminate in custom manufacturing, benefitting production sites close to customers. “Phygital” technologies, combining the physical and digital worlds, will make it possible to produce exactly what is needed, where it is needed.

This also means new organization of supply chains: multiple sources of supply, and relocation and repatriation of strategic production.

Migration and Jobs

Why not approach the issue of migration as an opportunity? Paradoxically, increased automation of production lines will generate a need for manpower; for every job eliminated, five more will be created, mainly in data management, software integration and programming, predictive maintenance and customer service improvement. European countries are facing skills shortages and will need to proactively plan and prepare for these needs, both at (re)located and ‘delocated’ sites. We should be creating the training courses to support these developments today. 

The future belongs to open-minded women and men, with the desire and courage to face these challenges head on, capitalizing on the victories of our elders and seizing the opportunities that the world brings.

Industry 5.0 will sit on four pillars: eco-responsibility, social responsibility, fair and flexible globalization and new jobs. Supported by digital technologies, this industry runs alongside the Society 5.0 project that we need to build.