Factory 4.0, between ambition and reality on earth

On the occasion of SIDO Lyon, the IoT, AI and robotics trade show held on September 14 and 15, 2022, Alten partnered with Siemens to present 3 demos to “drive innovation and optimize business performance”. In an interview with Usine Digitale, Steve Peguet, CTO of Alten, talks about Factory 4.0 ambitions and the reality on the ground.

Factory 4.0, or the digitization of industry, often cited as the solution to the relocation and reindustrialization of production in France, is part of a new generation of connected factories. However, faced with the many and varied technologies currently available, it remains to be seen how to proceed in order to get the most out of these tools. “One of the goals of factory 4.0 is to be able to work at the pace of a factory and be able to activate an element at the right time, which will allow you to recoup your investment,” explains Steve Pege.

Combine technologies

The scientific director of Alten, a French ESN specializing in engineering and technology consulting, Steve Peguet has spent ten years developing tool maintenance strategies to increase tool life in the factory, all thanks to technology. “Over the years, we have been frustrated by the promise of the cloud, edge computing, etc. In the end, it was only by adding these technologies that we were able to achieve the expected result,” he explains.

To illustrate his point, Steve Peguet returns to the case of a French aeronautics client, whom he does not name. This customer’s need was to maintain sharps in the factory using preventive maintenance, which is one of the promises of Factory 4.0. “Initially, with the cloud, we were able to determine that it was possible to find good practices and predictions,” but the available “cold” data did not allow for more. This is how the teams turned to edge computing, “particularly in partnership with Siemens,” says Steve Pege. “We started to see that with such a tool or such a machine, we had this behavior, and therefore we could at best predict the life of the machine and the need for sharpening. However, we did not have enough exact time, ”explains the manager. Alten then moved on to a new partner and new technology, STMicroelectronics, which acquired Alten’s original partner, Cartesiam. “We extended our partnership to create a smart sensor for vibration analysis, and we ran at 6600 Hz. This allowed us to find the point of sharpening in time and increase tool life by 20 and 30%,” says Steve Pege.

“Technology for all this?”

The technological shift of French factories highlighted by the pandemic has become more than necessary. “Today we really have the technology to do everything. The complexity is more organizational,” complains the manager. According to him, technology is no longer an end in itself, but a necessity to attract talent. The problem of “?convergence of forces” exists. Alten advocates creating these changes with the help of people. “Today, technology allows a lot, but you have to do something on the ground and with people,” explains Steve Pege. The manager notes that IT specialists were not welcome at the factories for a long time. “For years, they had the feeling that they were wasting their time experimenting and seeing that nothing was happening at scale when they had things to do on the side.”

On the occasion of Sido Alten discussed various topics. On the one hand, in terms of data, you need to think about the source, business needs and contextual data that needs to be analyzed in real time. On the other hand, the company discussed advanced analysis and visualization of this data. A strategy she sees as important for turning data into a performance lever. Alten and Siemens Customer Services Digital Industries have also joined forces to roll out end-to-end gesture training on a large scale. Both companies offer a solution that is personalized and immersive.

Attract talent and reduce climate impact

When asked about the future of using augmented reality and virtual reality in Factory 4.0, Steve Pege points out that there are “still a lot of limitations” in using the two technologies. “You should consider them not as a companion, as we presented it, but as a companion at the right moment.” For this industry professional, AR/VR technologies remain very useful at key moments, such as during training. “It allows you to do something without dangerous gestures and breakdowns, especially during maintenance, which is rare and which we often forget about,” he elaborates.

For the manager, augmented reality is more of a source of attraction for new generations. Overall, Steve Pege believes that Factory 4.0 and digital transformation are “needed to attract a younger person who is more tech-savvy.” ?

Alten recently announced four acquisitions in 2022. Two of the acquired companies specialize in cloud computing and digital transformation. Today, “30% of our turnover is in IT and 70% in development, we need a balance to make our acquisition more IT-focused,” explains Steve Pege. “We are currently acquiring skills that are slightly less common in the market to balance our strengths,” he continues.

From now on, still striving for Industry 4.0, Alten strives for digital sobriety. “Today, digital technologies are twice as large as civil aviation in terms of CO2 emissions. The cure should not be worse than the disease,” says Steve Pege. Alten says he is still at the design stage and is working on tweaking the measurement tools to find an architecture that will reduce the environmental impact. “There is pollution required for production, but there is also an opportunity to reduce it,” he concludes.

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