Opinion Dirk Torfs: "The smart industry of the future is sustainable, digitised and competitive"
The corona crisis, the largest influx of refugees into Europe since World War 2, rising energy prices, inflation, and so on. These are, to put it mildly, turbulent times. Our companies also face special challenges. And this after two very difficult years already. Fortunately, our companies are showing resilience and continue to invest in innovation. Dirk Torfs, CEO at Flanders Make, is looking to the future positively.
Various Flemish and federal initiatives, such as Flanders Make's 'digitisation accelerator plan', are supporting companies in their recovery after 2 years of Covid misery. The goal is to achieve a sustainable transformation of our companies and our economy. We believe that a smart industry with future potential should be sustainable, digitised, and competitive and that any business transformation is best built on these pillars. In this way, we can continue to lead in a globalised economy.
Sustainability is one of the key factors for a smart industry that fits in the current social and economic climate. Especially now that the prices of fuel, natural gas and electricity are breaking record after record. But sustainability is about more than just energy. A smart industry rests on four pillars:
- A green economy with more focus on energy efficiency and electrification.
- A human economy focused on workable work, upskilling and reskilling.
- An ecosystem economy that builds sustainable partnerships with companies and knowledge institutions to realise more complex processes.
- A circular economy that considers concepts such as lifetime provisioning, remanufacturing and smart maintenance as the new norm.
Data is key
Besides sustainability, data is the second driving force behind a successful digital transformation. Data can be used to leverage digital opportunities such as cobots, digital work instructions, augmented reality, digital twins, virtual reality, etc. We need to combine artificial intelligence with domain knowledge and human insights to ensure we can manage its impact. Only then can it create the leverage we need for the integration of man and machine. It supports the organisational learning process that strengthens both man and machine and contributes to workable work and efficient production processes that will make the difference in the future
"The differentiator for industrial players to initiate a sustainable transformation lies in the relationship between man, machine and domain knowledge."
CEO Flanders Make
Another aspect that contributes to the development of smart industry is the competitiveness of manufacturing companies. More than ever, customers are demanding customised solutions in small volumes. Companies that manage to keep their design and production costs under control can thus remain competitive in the global market. End-to-end digitalisation is a key element in this. It allows companies to respond in a flexible and automated way to the continuously changing customer demands and the design and production adjustments required for this.
The distinguishing capacity for industrial players to initiate a sustainable transformation therefore lies in the relationship between man, machine, and domain knowledge. Accelerated implementation of digital solutions and extra attention to sustainability and competitiveness are the necessary cocktail to further expand our prosperous economy under pressure from international superpowers. I am already optimistic: I see a positive dynamic within Flanders Make: we work intensively together and create social and industrial impact with our research in each of the key areas towards a smart industry.