In which industry activities do you think digital technologies can add the most value?
I think it applies to all of them. In recent years, there have been sectors such as automotive or aeronautics that have led the way in incorporating new technologies into their production processes. Now, robotization, automation, the importance of precision (Zero Defect Manufacturing), data analysis, and the implementation of artificial intelligence tools to improve production or machine maintenance are catching on in other sectors like power generation or agri-food. The solutions are perfectly applicable and horizontal. They are perfectly suitable for all industrial sectors. The key lies in the needs of each industry because they are not always the same, and technologies should solve specific needs. I always say that we should not become obsessed with implementing solutions linked to emerging technologies. We must first establish our needs and objectives and, from there, investigate which technologies can help us achieve them. Not the other way around.
Which digital technology do you think will have the biggest impact on the manufacturing sector?
Today it seems clear that everything has to do with data analytics, leveraging information to improve productivity and provide the best possible service to customers. And when it comes to squeezing that data, different technologies are involved. You have to capture information (sensor technology, IoT), send that data (wired connectivity such as TSN and wireless connectivity such as 5G, LoRaWAN,... ), store and process the data (cloud computing, edge computing, fog computing), analyze the data using tools related to big data, smart data or artificial intelligence, visualize the data using graphical interfaces, integrate the information in ERP, CRM, MES, and protect the data with cybersecurity tools. At the end of the day, it's not about a single technology. Any analytics process will fall flat, and the data will be useless if we don't have systems to capture the data, protocols for sending it, places to store it, tools to verify and enrich it, algorithms to analyze it, visualization software to understand it, platforms to integrate it, and cybersecurity to protect it.
How do you view the industrial sector’s reaction to the opportunity of digital transformation?
For years, the industrial sector has been very interested in everything that has to do with the incorporation of Industry 4.0 enabling technologies. It’s true that developing solutions linked with this technology can require a certain amount of training and the modification of some internal processes. This is an obstacle that some companies have to face. On the other hand, believe that the first thing a company should do is establish a strategic plan with its future challenges. With that document on the table, they can figure out which existing technologies can help them. Sometimes, our customers or suppliers may force us to implement some technology linked, for example, to traceability. In any case, I would advise smaller companies to look for good firms, engineering firms, consultancies, or professionals for recommendations and to start with small projects that will allow them to see results in the short to medium term.
On the other hand, we have to be realistic. Many companies, especially SMEs, are still recovering from the vicissitudes they experienced during the pandemic. There is still a lot of uncertainty about the future. This means that investments in new technologies or digital transformation are not a priority right now. Hopefully, plans such as the European Union's Next Generation EU recovery plan will provide capital and confidence to invest in digital transformation and Industry 4.0.
How do you work within the Industry 4.0 framework?
My work in the Industry 4.0 ecosystem is focused on the communication and dissemination of concepts related to digital transformation. In addition to collaborating with media and institutions, I am responsible for Pódcast Industria 4.0 (www.podcastindustria40.com). It is a portal whose goal is to explain the technologies and concepts related to Industry 4.0. On the other hand, it acts as a showcase for companies, entities, training centers, and professionals in this sector to publicize their products and developments. I also participate in the organization and presentation of events related to digital transformation and give courses and masterclasses on Industry 4.0.