Lynn Rosa André, who recently joined the L-DIH team as Project Coordinator, reflects on her first participation in the Smart Manufacturing Week.
My background is in the digital sector, and the Smart Manufacturing Week challenged and even overturned my preconceptions about the manufacturing industry. For example, I believed that a modern factory equals mass production – as I learned in a keynote presented by Romain Hansen, VP of Product Development EMEA at Goodyear, this is not necessarily the case. Goodyear’s Dudelange plant incorporates cutting-edge digital and automated tools to be able to produce small batches of tyres up to individual models if needed.
Beyond production – from HR to energy managementWhat stood out to me most was the variety of topics addressed and entities involved, spanning from companies of all sizes to research institutions over to the public sector.
Subjects included empowering people to drive sustainability forward, plans for green hydrogen in Luxembourg and the Greater Region, ways to access national and European funding schemes for innovative and sustainable projects, practical use cases on how optimising existing machinery can have a significant impact on energy usage, and how using AI can help increase the amount of recycled material used in production processes.
This vast diversity of topics showed me that like today’s factories, the manufacturing industry is a complex system including many different and highly specialised moving parts where cross-sectorial collaboration is key.
Sharing ideas and best-practices to drive sustainable innovationAn example of how this cross-disciplinary approach is essential to fostering innovation within the sector was illustrated in a keynote speech by Christophe Timmermans, CEO of solar panel cleaning robots SolarCleano. Mr Timmermans spoke about the company’s approach to coming up with the design for their B1 range of solar panel cleaning robots. They iterated on several designs but always found potential issues. The breakthrough idea came after visiting an agricultural trade fair and taking inspiration from vehicles designed for harvesting grapes in viniculture. This to me is not only representative of the agile mindset needed to innovate, but is also a testimonial to the power of sharing of ideas and concepts.
The sharing of best practices, with a focus on sustainability, is what united all these diverse topics together. And from approaching regulatory measures to personal engagement among staff, sustainability should be on every company’s radar.
The speakers of the Smart Manufacturing Week focused on a pragmatic approach to sustainability needed at every level, recognising the urgency of the matter but without overcomplicating or being alarmist. There is no need for costly or risky investments for a company to get started on their journey – there are tangible steps that can be taken with existing infrastructure and minimal additions, or in some cases, smart usage of current systems.
Digitalisation and sustainability go hand in handEarly analyses by the UN suggest significant links between digital transformation and environmental sustainability. Indeed, digitalisation plays a crucial role in these concrete measures that businesses can take today: for any improvements to be made, first the current performance needs to be measured – this means that relevant data needs to be collected, according to the individual needs and goals and of the company. Digital tools help with the collection and the evaluation of this data – to identify pain points, issues or a need for optimisation. Companies can then start small, and in a sustainable, organic approach, scale up later.
According to the World Economic Forum, companies linking their digital transformation and sustainability efforts are 2.5 times more likely to be among tomorrow’s strongest performing businesses than companies that do not. Digitalisation then not only becomes an obvious vector for a more profitable and efficient use of resources, but through this also drives additional measures to make businesses more sustainable.
Solutions for the future are here nowI left the conference with the feeling of having had a crash course not only on the current state of the manufacturing industry, but also on its principal local players as well as on how close-knit innovation, digital transformation and sustainability are in this sector. The manufacturing ecosystem in Luxembourg seems to me like a global village – it may be small in locality, but it is far-reaching in its ideas and ambitions, a community open towards the world.
Events like the Smart Manufacturing Week are an opportunity for convergence, and for synergies to happen that drive the whole sector forward. It proved to me that many people are highly engaged in the topic of sustainability, setting the example, and sharing their knowledge for the benefit of the wider industry. It proved to me that solutions are present, that there are concrete steps and measures that can be taken and that there are people out there willing to help turn them into reality. The opportunity to seize them is now.