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Home » Industry 4.0: skills and benefits

Gianluca Mazzi
Gianluca Mazzi

Business Development

Industria 4.0: competenze e agevolazioni

What does industry 4.0 mean and where does it come from?

Industry 4.0 refers to a new production and business management model with a significant market value that attracts millionaire investments and significant incentives.

The term has entered forcefully in the common language, but, as often happens, the meaning and concrete implications in the world of work are not very clear.

Let's see together, more specifically, what it is.

The expression "industry 4.0" was born in the context of the fourth industrial revolution and was used for the first time at the Hanover Fair in 2011. When the fourth industrial revolution actually began, it cannot be established with certainty, probably because, being still in progress, this is a fact that can only materialize in retrospect. In any case, the birth of information technology marked the crucial moment of the digital age. Automation levels have increased thanks to the use of IT and factories have become increasingly digital and interconnected.

If we analyze the phenomenon in detail, we can use a definition provided by Mise which states that the elements that characterize industry 4.0 are "connection between physical and digital systems, complex analyzes through Big Data and real-time adaptations". We are talking about machinery connected to the web, analysis of information obtained from the network, flexible management of the production cycle and analysis and management of data in the cloud from which it is possible to extrapolate any strengths and weaknesses of production.

The matter has been the subject of various discussions, such as those of the World Economic Forum 2016, but also subsequent editions.

Revolution 4.0: change in the world of work

Once we understand what the term "industry 4.0" really means, it is necessary to understand what the implications are in the world of work and how current skills and professions will evolve in the future.

Partiamo con il dire che il mercato italiano dell’Internet of Things cresce a ritmi sostenuti anno dopo anno. Dalla ricerca dell’Osservatorio Internet of Things della School of Management del Politecnico di Milano, presentata il 20 giugno 2019 al convegno “Industria 4.0: la rivoluzione si fa con le persone”, si evince che il valore di mercato dell’IoT arriva a 3,2 miliardi di euro nel 2018, ossia +35%, in crescita rispetto al periodo precedente e perfettamente in linea con quella degli altri paesi occidentali (che varia dal 25% al 40% circa). Questo, però, è un dato che ha visto una forte riduzione nei primi mesi del 2019, almeno secondo una prima stima, passando da +35% a solo +20%.

The most widespread technologies among Italian companies

In the first position, with a value of 1.9 billion euros and, therefore, about 60% of the market, we find the IT sector and, in particular, Industrial IoT, i.e. all the components that allow machines to be connected to the network. This branch recorded a growth of + 40% in 2018, immediately followed by Industrial Analytics which conquered about 17% of the market in the period considered. Finally, Cloud Manufacturing owns 8% of the market with 270 million euros. Within Operational Technologies (OT), Advanced Automation stands out, followed by Additive Manufacturing and, finally, the Advanced Human Machine Interface. To conclude, the last slice of the market is owned by the consulting and training activity linked to Industry 4.0 projects which, with 220 million euros, demonstrates how there is the will to improve in terms of skills, but the way to go is still a lot.

From a survey by the Industry 4.0 Observatory, carried out on 192 Italian companies (153 large companies and 39 SMEs), it appears that about 80% of them are aware of the skills revolution taking place in the industrial sector. But only one in three companies has carried out an assessment of their digital readiness, while 54% are interested in doing so in the future and 14% have never done so or intend to do so.

EDALAB is a company that has always paid particular attention to training, development and, above all, the dissemination of skills in the IoT field, and beyond, and our commitment is oriented in this direction every day. In fact, we have recently obtained the qualification of innovation manager so, thanks to the voucher introduced by the 2019 Budget, SMEs or companies that are part of business networks can request the incentive to obtain consultancy aimed at supporting the processes of technological transformation and digital through enabling technologies provided by the Business Plan 4.0. At this link you can learn more about the topic and find all useful information, such as timing and methods to request the Voucher Innovation Manager.

Industrial software, HMI and OPC-UA

EDALAB enables Industry 4.0 in several ways.

First of all, we have created various industrial software for the intelligent control of machines and production plants, including several multi-user and multilingual Touchscreen HMIs with advanced services and microservices on customer specifications.

Having been born as Software House engaged in the development of firmware and embedded systems (Networked embedded systems) we care particularly about the software component, we take care of and develop software dedicated to very specific hardware.

We have developed HMI for the control of industrial machinery in the most varied industrial sectors (as for example food, rail, textiles, logistics, healthcare, retail, manufacturing, etc.) with particular attention to the management and maintenance of the software.

Thanks to our deep knowledge of the OPC-UA protocol (standard protocol for plug&play production) we are able to guarantee interoperability facilitating the interconssion between machines and services of different companies.

Today when a new machine arrives on the production line, there is a third company that plans it and integrates it into the system, taking up to a week. With the OPC UA the same operation can be done in 10 minutes: that's why it is a fundamental standard for the development of industry 4.0.

Let's go back to the data!

The application areas of business processes

The areas that have undergone the most important transformations as a result of the revolution linked to industry 4.0, we find:

  • Smart Factory with 42%: that is production, logistics, maintenance, quality, safety and compliance;
  • Smart Lifecycle with 33%: that is product development, lifecycle management and supplier management;
  • Smart Supply Chain with 25%: that is planning physical and financial flows;
  • Integration between Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT);
  • Industrial Data Science: i.e. exploitatively and evaluating data from machinery, devices, products, customers, social media, news for the other business areas.

The main benefits found

Also from this research it is possible to highlight how, once 4.0 projects become part of the business processes, the benefits that they bring are high. We are talking about improved production flexibility (47%), increased plant efficiency (38%), reduced design times (34%) and opportunities to enter new markets or develop innovative products.

Some of the most perceived obstacles by companies to the development of 4.0 applications are, instead, the difficulties in the use of technology and in the adoption of standards (59%), the problems of an organizational nature and management of skills (41%), the difficulties change management (20%) and dissatisfaction with the offer (17%).

In addition, Italian companies that have begun to use 4.0 technologies in their processes find themselves managing the impact on the organization. In particular, they are attentive to process and flow changes (54.2% of the sample), to those in the activities and working methods of personnel (45.3%) and to technical skills (42.7%). Less than 20% focused on the impact on roles, managerial and relational skills and expected behaviors.

Small and Medium Industries 4.0

Thanks to the DREAMY tool (Digital REadiness Assessment MaturitY model), the Observatory was able to assess the digital maturity of processes in terms of the ability to execute, monitor and control, organize and use ICT technologies, of about 600 Italian companies.

The data analysis shows that the level of digital innovation is higher in large companies than in SMEs in each dimension and process considered. In particular, the ability to use digital technologies in the execution and management of business processes is the second structurally weaker dimension.

In confirmation of what has been said so far, another survey, the "Ey digital Manufacturing Maturity Index 2019", presented during the last stage of the Manufacturing Lab, Ey roadshow carried out in collaboration with IBM.

From the 600 projects analyzed, the gap between large and small companies which are struggling to keep up is clear. 75% of enterprise organizations already make use of innovative technologies and Industry 4.0 taking advantage of tax benefits, while two out of three companies among small businesses do not have a body dedicated to the development of digital initiatives, showing themselves weak in terms of corporate culture , governance of change and development strategy.

From here we can say that the main obstacles that SMEs face are certainly the limited digital culture of entrepreneurs and the difficulty in meeting suitable professionals. In fact, companies of this size struggle to intercept the skills needed to embark on the path of innovation 4.0 and, where found, it is difficult to keep them updated.

Having said that, therefore, the urgency to invest in human capital, looking for figures with technical and managerial skills capable of guiding the digitization of company processes and systems and who are constantly updated on developments in the sector, appears as a natural consequence of the of this period.

Subsidies for R&D projects

Two decrees issued by the Ministry of Economic Development allocate over 500 million euros aimed at relaunching subsidy interventions in favor of large R&D projects.

The first decree is aimed at encouraging those companies that carry out projects in the "Digital Agenda" and "Sustainable Industry". Specifically, in the first case, reference is made to active projects in the field of information technology and electronic communication and for the implementation of the Italian digital agenda. In the second case, however, we are talking about concessions for those who engage in specific issues relevant to "sustainable industry" such as Micro-Nanoelectronics, Nanotechnology, Photonics, Advanced Materials, Advanced Production Systems and Industrial Biotechnology. The measure is financed by the resources of the FRI, the Revolving Fund for business support and investments of Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, and of the FCS, the Fund for sustainable growth of the MISE.

The second decree, on the other hand, provides for a subsidy for large research and development projects promoted in the area of ​​the Smart Factory, Agrifood and Life Sciences technological areas. in this case a quota of approximately 50 million is reserved for the regions of Calabria, Campania, Puglia and Sicily. Finally, a part is reserved for projects active in the field of "High Performance Computing" consistent with the national strategy of smart specialization.

What is ICT4SSL and what is its purpose?

It is in this context that ICT for Smart and Sustainable Living (ICT4SSL) is part of a network open to all companies and research centers that are active or intend to make their contribution in the living area and of which EDALAB is a partner together with BFT Spa, Confindustria Veneto SIAV, 3VENEZIE SOCIAL ENTERPRISE CONSORTIUM, Univeneto Foundation and Videotec Spa. It is currently made up of 28 subjects including research bodies and small, medium and large companies.

ICT4SSL aims to create actions for the design and development of new "living" products starting from an entrepreneurial fabric of excellence but without tools to activate common synergies of industrial research and system innovation. Technical-industrial innovation is a fundamental element of the network as it is precisely from the innovation and the exchange of skills and knowledge between the companies on the network, that we start to design and develop new competitive products in the field of home automation, automation, smart metering and sensors, video surveillance and devices for personal safety and living places, software products, including "mobile" and artificial intelligence. Thanks to this synergy that the network fosters, the partners are always presented with new market prospects in integrated systems for living (a market that will soon reach 3.9 billion dollars) and important potential to offer new specialized employment in the medium term.

The commitment of the network is and will always be aimed at respecting the environmental good while keeping the focus on the person and quality of life. Through design and technological development projects, the companies in the network aim to create intelligent and sustainable environments in which life acquires quality, safety and well-being. We mostly refer to environments such as the home, the urban environment, the workplace which, thanks to the enabling effect of ICT (networks and sensors, mobile technologies, automation and home automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning) will be interconnected and rendered able to autonomously support people, in particular the most fragile ones (elderly and disabled), in their various daily activities. Environmental and energy sustainability, in development processes and in the product, social, cognitive and physical sustainability of the services and functions offered are therefore the common denominator for the smart and sustainable living network.

Therefore, business creation, innovation and technology transfer are fundamental aspects for which the network works every day, keeping universities and research centers connected as regards the conception and design of the product, companies for development itself and end users, associations and social cooperatives to promote their use. So far, the network has had a strong social impact on the active aging strategy, considering it a fundamental element from which to design and develop products that improve the quality of life and well-being of citizens, especially the weakest and most needy sections of the population. All the work done and on which we are still working has not only had an impact within the Veneto region, but also on national and international markets thanks to the possibility of synergistically occupying the different components of the living market with products that can make system and define the living environment at 360 °.

Operational areas

In detail, the 2017-2020 development program includes various areas of operation including:

1) Design and development of innovative products for improving the quality of living and working environments also through the introduction of electronic and IT enabling technologies (ICT, robotics / automation, IOT) and the adoption of design and design models centered on the person and on communities of practice.

2) Design and development of new highly innovative and enabling manufacturing products, with a high level of interoperability, interconnection, and modularity with a strong promotion of new professional activities and a new drive for the participation of local companies in international markets dedicated to living technologies and of active aging.

3) Design and development of methodologies and products for improving the accessibility and inclusiveness of internal and external living environments, with particular attention to the workplace to achieve a high quality of life for citizens with particular reference to 'active aging.

4) Increase of multisectoral technology transfer actions between University-Enterprise-Territory for the design and development of intelligent and sustainable technologies dedicated to living environments with the creation of opportunities for the birth of innovative star-ups and spin-offs.

5) Creation and consolidation of a regional network structure to approach national and international initiatives and actions (especially European H2020) related to the theme of sustainable technological innovation in living spaces. Development and promotion of a network of orthogonal scientific and professional skills to address the issue of independent living as a whole and to promote the culture of sustainability.

What is our contribution?

Having been born in 2007 as a spin-off of the Computer Science Department of the University of Verona and operating in the design of embedded network systems. Within the ICT4SSL business network we cover the role of partner and Industrial Advisory Board. EDALAB is, therefore, a multipurpose partner in product creation and innovation, from research, analysis and design to the implementation of software and hardware solutions in the field of embedded network systems. Our commitments address both social and environmental sustainability. In the first fundamental case is the creation of value in sustainable living, offering services and solutions to break down architectural barriers and improve people's quality of life. In the second case, however, the goal is to develop products and services that help reduce environmental pollution and stimulate green thinking.

Thanks to the implementation of European and regional smart living projects, we contribute to the network by providing innovative control and monitoring solutions that use wireless sensors based on IoT (Internet of Things) technologies. Furthermore, it is able to create synergies with other partners to increase its sales force by planning coordination and network support actions.

BOX-IO for smart sustainable living

Send them on the network to control, monitor and manage critical success parameters related to operational flows, business scenarios, single objects, plants or entire buildings. Once the processing has taken place, it is possible to view and control such data via a remote control application (available for both web and mobile) and, moreover, the entire system is fully scalable and customizable according to any type of need.

The digital transformation that, especially in recent decades, has imposed itself with arrogance in the real estate market and beyond, has meant that the adoption of data collection and information processing systems are, to date, important elements for the creation not only of economic, but above all social value in the sector. In fact, thanks to the information that IoT systems are able to process, it is possible to make increasingly precise decisions based on what happens inside the structure. This applies both to new buildings whose design includes all the criteria of the "Smart Building" and to the most significant renovations in living spaces and workplaces.

Flexibility, energy efficiency, the creation of comfortable, safe and socially inclusive environments are factors that have led to the enhancement of services and people by starting a new development model in which architecture, energy and digital infrastructures and the social dimension are integrated.

The goal we intend to pursue thanks to the use of BOX-IO is to fit into the perspective of a 4.0 building, that is a sustainable, connected, intelligent, safe structure, which breaks down social barriers and, therefore, which gives a important added value for operating in the field of Smart Sustainable Living.

We talk about sustainability as Box-IO is able to control and, therefore, regulate temperature, energy consumption, electricity, lights, ventilation, heating and air conditioning in an intelligent way, that is to say according to the presence or absence of people in a room and the internal and external microclimate. In this way, it is therefore possible to make the building smart and eco-sustainable as energy consumption is significantly reduced. Furthermore, the absence of wiring makes the organization of spaces much more flexible as there is no need to break the walls as switches and sensors are only totally wireless.

Again, reference is made to a connected structure because it is able to offer personalized services and micro-services that increase its productive value.

Thanks to the detection sensors which, once dangerous situations have been identified, allow for the automatic sending of emergency alarms, high levels of safety for people inside the building or workplaces are guaranteed.

Finally, what is essential to give value to the building and improve the quality of life of the people who live there, especially those with difficulties and disabilities, is the presence of infrastructures capable of breaking down social barriers. EDALAB has always been a company that has shown an active commitment in this regard, thanks to several projects developed over the years. In fact, with a simple and convenient touch panel it is possible to manage the whole house and, in particular, the temperature levels, alarms, lights, windows and shutters. Furthermore, through voice commands it is possible to activate calls or ask for assistance immediately even in case of detection of people in the house or in situations dangerous for the person. Furthermore, thanks to a connected weareble it is possible to detect the vital parameters of the individual wearing it. All these components contribute to facilitate the daily life of men and women in difficulty and who often live alone without any assistance.

Precisely for this reason we contribute to improving the quality of life of people and the usability of living and working places, by joining the Domho “Smart Sustainable Living” project.

Domho Project: IoT applied to social innovation

The project called "INTEGRATED IoT HOME AUTOMATION SYSTEM WITH HIGH IT SECURITY FOR SMART BUILDING" (IoT) "was presented as part of the DGR 1139 call of 19 July 2017 (POR FESR 2014-2020 Axis 1. Action 1.1.4" Support for collaborative R&D activities for the development of new sustainable technologies, new products and services ") by the Network of Light Companies in Veneto, as head of the branch. The project has a duration of approximately 36 months and an overall budget of € 4,451,854.60.

The Domho project was created to promote the integration of products for the smart building world (in particular lighting and access control systems) of home automation, ICT, electronic, photonic and IoT (Internet of Things) technologies. The main areas of application of the project are:

- IoT Communication

- Integration

- Usability

- Security

In the Sustainable Living area, the project intends to position itself in the area of ​​improving the quality of life by proposing innovative solutions in the building sector through the integration of lighting and access control systems thanks to ICT and adaptive automation, giving maximum prominence to '' interoperability of systems, accessibility and ease of use of interfaces, remote monitoring and maintenance.

Furthermore, as regards the design and construction of buildings, the project proposes innovative technologies for design, integrated design (e.g. between materials, systems, ICT), development and maintenance of buildings and products for living, including the development and adoption of visualization systems based on augmented / virtual reality, aimed at optimizing the "house-building system", to improve the usability of places and the removal of architectural barriers. Also included are advanced technologies for the refitting of buildings.

To help increase independence in the everyday life of people in difficulty in living and working spaces, Domho offers innovative and interconnected technological solutions that embrace the principles of inclusive design. These are technologies that look at the needs and requirements of a greater number of users (eg the elderly or the disabled) to improve their usability, comfort and safety.

Energy efficiency (Integration of LED lighting systems with adaptive control and integrated with access automation systems from an IoT perspective) and active aging (Development of systems with interfaces designed for elderly subjects) are the main factors that guide the entire project and all the innovative solutions it brings with it.

Finally, in the realization of the project the enabling technologies are:

  • micro-nano electronics
  • photonics

Development trajectories

The development trajectories of this project are many and currently the system is being tested on the field in two different applications:

1) Home automation and independent life automation: 2D and 3D cameras for position and drop detection, intelligent automation for lights, doors and shutters, comfort and microclimate control (co2 sensors, humidity, temperature, organic and volatile compounds, intelligent thermostats),

2) Smart Sustainable Building: technologies for intelligent building design in a social key, wireless sensors that are easy to install and configure, control of high-efficiency mechanical ventilation, control of the energy consumption of boilers, heat pumps and burners, artificial intelligence algorithms for energy efficiency.

Between December 2019 and January 2020 the system will be installed in the “Domenico Sartor” Residential Center in Castelfranco Veneto (TV).

In addition, other buildings, including co-housing and retirement homes, are being revised for the installation of the system, the development of which is also expanding to commercial and retail environments.

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