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  September 27th, 2018 | Written by

World Economic Forum identifies nine of the best factories in the world

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  • Leading factories selected based on track record of implementing technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
  • Three of nine leading factories identified in report sites are in China, five are in Europe and one is in the US.
  • 70 percent of businesses investing in advanced technologies do not take projects beyond the pilot phase.

Concluding a year-long study, the World Economic Forum has announced nine of the most advanced factories in the world, recognizing the strides that the world’s best manufacturers are making towards embedding the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution into modern production.

The geographic distribution of the nine “lighthouses” demonstrates that while Europe has struggled to produce its own home-grown internet giant, the region remains a powerhouse when it comes to applying advanced technology to manufacturing. Five of the “lighthouses” are located in Europe, three in China and one in the United States. They were selected from an initial list of some 1,000 manufacturing companies based on their successful implementation of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies in ways that have driven financial and operational impact.

The aim of this effort is to build a network of “manufacturing lighthouses” to address problems confronting industries in both advanced and emerging economies when it comes to investing in advanced technologies. Earlier work by the forum identified that over 70 percent of businesses investing in technologies such as big data analytics, artificial intelligence, and 3D printing do not take the projects beyond pilot phase due to unsuccessful implementation strategies.

To aid the learning and adoption of technologies by other companies, all nine lighthouses in the network have agreed to open their doors and share their knowledge with other manufacturing businesses.

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution is expected to deliver productivity gains amounting to more than $3.7 trillion, but we are still at the beginning of the journey,” said Helena Leurent, member of the executive committee at the World Economic Forum. “Our efforts to create a learning platform with the lighthouses as the cornerstone are part of the giant leap needed to capture the benefits for the larger manufacturing ecosystem including multinationals, SMEs, start-ups, government and academia.”

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is real. Workers and management equally get augmented with technology. These pioneers have created factories that have 20-50 percent higher performance and create a competitive edge,” said Enno de Boer, Partner and Global Head of Manufacturing at McKinsey & Company, which collaborated with the Forum on the project. “They have agile teams with domain, analytics, IoT and software development expertise that are rapidly innovating on the shop floor. They have deployed a common data/IoT platform and have up to 15 use cases in action. They are thinking “scale”, acting “agile” and resetting the benchmark.”

The nine lighthouses have comprehensively deployed a wide range of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies and use cases at scale while keeping humans at the heart of innovation. One exciting example from each of the sites is highlighted below

Bayer Biopharmaceutical (Garbagnate, Italy): Using data as an asset. While most companies use less than one percent of the data they generate, Bayer’s massive data lake has led to a 25-percent reduction in maintenance costs and 30 percent to 40 percent gains in operational efficiency.

Bosch Automotive (Wuxi, China): Supporting output increase. By using advanced data analytics to deeply understand and eliminate output losses, simulate and optimize process settings, and predict machine interruptions before they occur.

Haier (Qingdao, China): User-centric mass customization model. Artificial Intelligence led transformations include an ‘order-to-make’ mass customization platform and a remote AI supported, central intelligent service cloud platform to predict maintenance needs before they happen.

Johnson & Johnson Depuy Synthes (Cork, Ireland): Process-driven digital twinning. This factory used the internet of things to make old machines talk to one other, resulting in 10 percent lower operating costs and a five-percent reduction in machine downtime.

Phoenix Contact (Bad Pyrmont and Blomberg, Germany): Customer-driven digital twinning. By creating digital copies of each customer’s specifications, production time for repairs or replacements has been cut by 30 percent.

Procter & Gamble (Rakona, Czech Republic): Production agility. A click of a button is all it takes

production lines in this factory to instantly change the product being manufactured, which has reduced costs by 20 percent and increased output by 160 percent.

Schneider Electric (Vaudreuil, France): Factory integration. Sharing knowledge and best practices across

sites has helped this company make sure all its factory sites enjoy the highest energy and operational efficiencies, reducing energy costs by 10 percent and maintenance costs by 30 percent.

Siemens Industrial Automation Products (Chengdu, China): 3D simulated production line optimization.

Using 3D simulation, augmented reality and other techniques to perfect the design and operations of its factory, employees helped increase output by 300 percent and reduced cycle time.

UPS Fast Radius (Chicago, USA): Balancing capacity with customer demand. Meeting increasing consumer demand for fast-turnaround customized products has been made possible through a combination of globally distributed 3D printing centers with real-time manufacturing analytics.

The network of manufacturing lighthouses officially launched at the World Economic Forum, which took place September 18 to 20 Tianjin, China.