Industry 4.0 : skills and benefits



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

This term forced his way into the common language, but as is often the case, there is no understanding of the real significance and practical implication in the workplace.

Let’s see together what that means exactly.


What does industry 4.0 means and where is it coming from?

The term ‘industry 4.0‘ originates within the forth industrial revolution and was used for the first time at the Hannover Fair in 2011. When the fourth industrial revolution has actually begun it cannot be established, given that is still in progress nowadays it is a fact that only in retrospect one can truly evaluate. In any case, the advent of computer science crucially marked this digital age. The automation levels have increased thanks to the IT management and the factories have become more and more digital and interconnected.

However If we analyse in detail the phenomenon, we can make use of a definition provided by the Mise where it is stated that the elements characterising a’Industry 4.0 are “connection between physical and digital systems, complex analyses through Big Data and real-time evaluations”. We are talking about machines connected to the internet, analysis of information obtained from the network, flexible management of the production cycle and analysis and management of data on the cloud from which it is possible to extrapolate any points of strength and weakness of the production.

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


4.0 Revolution: the shift in the workplace

Once we understood what the term ‘“industry 4.0” really means, we need to discern what are the implications in the workplace and how current skills and professions will evolve in the future.

Let’s start by saying that the Internet of Things Italian market is growing at a sustained pace year after year. From the research of the Internet of things Observatory of the School of Management of the Polytechnic of Milan, presented on 20 June 2019 at the conference “Industry 4.0: the revolution is made with people”, the market value of the iot reaches 3,2 billion euros in 2018, that is +35%, increase compared to the previous period and perfectly in line with the one of other western countries (that varies from 25% to 40%). This, however, is a data that has seen a strong reduction in the first months of 2019, at least according to a first estimate, passing from +35% to only +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, that is all the components that allows the connection of the machinery to the network. This branch has recorded in 2018 an increase of +40%, immediately followed by Industrial Analytics that has conquered approximately 17% of the market in the period considered. Finally, Cloud Manufacturing owns 8% of the market with 270 million euros. Within the operational Technologies (OT) stands out the Advanced Automation, followed by the additive Manufacturing and, finally, the Advanced Human Machine Interface. Finally, the last market share is held by the consultancy and training activities linked to Industry 4.0 projects, which, with EUR 220 million, shows that there is a desire to improve skills, but there is still a long way to go.

A survey conducted by the Industrial Observatory 4.0, and drawn up on 192 Italian companies (153 large companies and 39 SMEs), shows that about 80% of them are aware of the revolution in industrial skills. But only one in three companies has evaluated their digital preparation, where the 54% are interested in doing so in the future and 14% have never done so.

EDALAB is a company that has always paid particular attention to training, development and, above all, to the dissemination of competences in the field of iot, and beyond, and our commitment is oriented daily in this regard. Recently, in fact, we obtained the qualification of innovation manager for which, thanks to the voucher introduced by the 2019 economic policy, SMEs or companies forming part of enterprise networks may apply for the incentive to obtain advice aimed at supporting technological and digital transformation processes through enabling technologies provided by the Business Plan 4.0.

HMI interfaces developed by EDALAB s.r.l


Industrial software, HMI and OPC-UA

EDALAB enables industry 4.0 in several ways.
First of all we have created several industrial software for the intelligent control of machines and production plants, including several multi-user and multilingual HMI Touchscreen with advanced services and micro-services on customer specification.

Being born as a Software House committed in the development of firmware and embedded systems (Networked Embedded Systems) we are particularly interested in the software component, we cure and develop software dedicated to very specific hardware.

We have developed Human Machine Interfaces for the control of industrial machinery in the most varied industrial field (such as food, railway, textile, logistic, healthcare, retail, manufacturing etc.) paying particular attention to the management and maintenance of the software.

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

Today when a new machine arrives on the production line, there is a third company that program it and integrates it into the system, process that may take even a week. With the UA OPC the same operation can be done in 10 minutes: this is why it is a fundamental standard for the development of the 4.0 industry.

Industria 4.0(1)
Solution developed by EDALAB s.r.l for the control of industrial machinery

Let’s just circle back to the data!

The areas of application of business processes

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

Smart Factory with 42%: production, logistics, maintenance, quality, safety and compliance;

Smart lifecycle with 33%: product development, life cycle management and supplier management;

Smart Supply Chain with 25%: physical and financial flow planning;

Integration between Information Technology (IT) and operational Technology (OT);

Industrial Data Science: exploiting and evaluating data from machinery, devices, products, customers, social media, news for other business areas.

The main benefits encountered

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

Some of the major obstacles perceived by enterprises in the development of 4.0 applications are, however, the difficulties in using technology and in adopting standards (59%), problems of organisational nature and management of competences (41%), difficulties of management change (20%) and dissatisfaction with the offer (17%).

Moreover, Italian companies that have started to use the 4.0 technologies in their processes find themselves to have to manage its impact on the organisation too. In particular, they are attentive to the changes in process and flow (54.2% of the sample), at those in the activities and working methods of the staff (45.3%) and in the technical skills (42.7%). Less than 20% are focused on the impact on roles, managerial and relational skills and expected behaviours.

Small and medium-sized enterprises 4.0

Thanks to the DREAMY (Digital readiness Assessment maturity model), the Observatory has been able to evaluate the digital maturity of the processes in terms of execution, monitoring and control capabilities, organisation and use of ICT technologies, in about 600 Italian companies.

Data analysis shows that the level of digital innovation in large companies is higher than in SMEs in any given size and process. In particular, the ability to use digital technologies in the execution and management of business processes is the second weakest dimension structurally.

Another survey, confirmed what it is been said so far: the “EY digital Manufacturing maturity Index 2019”, presented during the last stage of the Manufacturing Lab, Ey’s roadshow realised in collaboration with IBM.

From the 600 projects analysed, it is clear that there is a gap between large and small companies which are struggling to keep up. The 75% of enterprise-type organisations already use innovative technologies and Industry 4.0 with tax benefits, while two out of three small businesses do not have a dedicated agency for the development of digital initiatives, showing weak in terms of corporate culture, governance of change and development strategy.

From here we can say that the main obstacles faced by the SMEs 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 take the path of innovation 4.0 and, if found, it is difficult to keep them up to date.

Therefore, as a natural consequence of the needs of this period, it arises the urgent obligation to invest in human capital, seeking people with technical and managerial skills who can guide the digitisation of business processes and systems and who are constantly updated on developments in the sector.


Incentives for R&D projects

Two decrees issued by the Ministry of Economic Development allocate more than EUR 500 million to relaunch the facilitation of major R&D projects.

The first decree is intended to stimulate those companies that carry out projects in the field of “Digital Agenda”and “Sustainable Industry“. Specifically, in the first case, reference is made to the projects active in the field of information technology and electronic communication and for the implementation of the Italian Digital Agenda. In the second case, on the other hand, there is talk of facilities for those engaged in specific topics relevant to“l’M sustainable industry” such as Micro-nano-electronics, nanotechnology, photonics, Advanced Materials, Advanced Production Systems and Industrial Biotechnology. The measure is financed from the resources of the FRI, the Rotary Fund for Business Support and Investments of the Deposit and Loan Fund, and the FCS, the Sustainable Growth Fund of the MISE.

The second decree, on the other hand, provides a facilitation for major research and development projects promoted in the areas of Smart Factory, Agrifood and Life Sciences. In this case, about 50 million is reserved for the regions of Calabria, Campania, Puglia and Sicily. Finally, part is reserved for projects active in the field of high-performance“calculation” consistent with the National Intelligent Specialisation Strategy.