ConnectedFactories Final Newsletter

As the ConnectedFactories project has come to an end in November 2022, we are pleased to present you the final newsletter, where you can find information and resources about the latest events. 

Business and Legal Online Workshop – 24/05/2022 

On the 24th of May, EFFRA organized an online workshop concerning the business and legal aspects of the digitalisation of the manufacturing industry.  

The session started with Malte Beyer-Katzenberger's (CNECT G1) presentation of the Data Governance Act, including key considerations of the EU’s data strategy, details on the Common European data spaces, and definition of the intervention areas and scope of the Act: anonymization of public data, regulation of private-law data intermediation services, voluntary label for data altruism organisations, obligation of keep non-personal data safe in international context, and better standardisation across sectors.

Carlos Montalvo and Ilina Georgieva (TNO) followed with a presentation on the pathways, key enablers and skills for the digitalisation of manufacturing, highlighting digital industry agreements, common data spaces, and industrial digital contract agreements, their framework and taxonomy; the speakers stressed the lack of awareness of the upcoming regulatory framework and the gaps found in current contract agreements.  

Katri Valkokari (VTT) approached the topic of novel business models for digital platforms, presenting the global megatrends paving the way to change in the manufacturing industry, the core elements of digital platforms, and the key platform benefits to different stakeholders, including as case examples INDEX and SEED; the speaker concluded by highlighting the most important elements of data-driven business, including networking with the novel partnerships, having a broad view on current knowledge and ongoing discussions, and developing skills to ensure access to software, data analytics and methods.  

Tobias Leiting (FIR – RWTH Aachen) provided insights into digital platforms support subscription business models in manufacturing and what are the success factors in order to make this work. 

Finally, Karl Grun (Austrian Standards) focused on Standard Essential Patent (SEP) and the Common Patent Policy of Standardization Organisations, presenting B2B platforms and emerging issues, namely power imbalances and uncertainty surrounding data ownership, differentiating open and proprietary standards, explaining how to avoid conflicts between patents and standards, and presenting alternative solutions to standards essential patents. 

All presentations are available via this link, and the session’s recordings are also available in our YouTube playlist. 

AI Pathway Workshop - 13/06/2022 

On the 13th of June, EFFRA organized a workshop taking place in Brussels’ Bluepoint Building, on the theme of AI for Manufacturing Pathway. The event was kicked off by Sergio Gusmeroli (Politecnico di Milano), who presented the day’s programme and AI technology enablers and AI for factories 4.0.  

In the first session, Sergio Gusmeroli was joined by Fabiana Pirola (UniBG), to present the regional initiatives and industrial experiments in “AI for Manufacturing”, the AI REGIO Project and Lombardy AI Roadmap, going into detail about some of the 17 experiments and their positioning. The speakers also highlighted the AI roadmap in Regione Lombardia and the main research and innovation priorities, namely human centered processes, design and use of intelligent products, and forecasting lean and resilient planning, as well and the R&I priorities for the machinery, textile, and metal sectors.  

Andrea Bettoni (SUPSI) followed with a presentation about KITT4SME’s tools and piloting activities for scope-tailored and industry-ready hardware, software and organisational kits to integrate AI in SMEs and mid-caps, highlighting the barriers for AI in manufacturing, namely lack of data, cost assessment methods, and customised solutions, as well as the complexity in using solutions and underskilled employees.  

Stefan Walter (VTT) gave his insights in regarding the AI roadmap in the knowlEdge project, highlighting how the project addresses manufacturing optimisation through AI and providing use cases; following an identification of the challenges and barriers, the speaker also suggested that the AI pathway should be embedded in appropriate enabling technologies and that businesses should be convinced to be open to AI.  

Sotiris Makris (LMS/University of Patras), followed with an exposition on AI enabled seamless human-robot collaboration through the Sherlock project, its objectives, enablers, and challenges, based on industrial cases as-is and to-be levels; based on the identified barriers in AI adoption, the speakers recommended human-centered designs, and advance in collaboration, middleware development and training services delivery.  

Jason Mansell (Tecnalia)’s presentation was on the topic of using AI to leverage circular economy, anchored on the approach of KYKLOS 4.0, a project that promotes massive, personalized, and sustainable manufacturing, and its AI applications to wheelchairs’ footrest design, customisation, and mass production, and predictive maintenance.  

Mario Pichler (SCCH)’s presentation was dedicated to the dynamic knowledge graph approach for human-centred manufacturing in I5.0, anchored on the, a project with the objective of developing a new paradigm of human-AI collaboration embedded in a societal dimension that ensures the role of the human being in the future industrial scenario; the speaker explained knowledge graphs in detail and presented several use cases, additionally identifying problems and challenges.  

Simon Thevenin (ASSITANT) focused on data-driven production management, detailing how the project uses AI for decisions in manufacturing and developing intelligent digital twins while maintaining a human centric and ethical design architecture; the speaker concluded that actions should be taken in relation to price, maturity and knowledge of AI in manufacturing.  

Luis Usatorre’s  presentation (TECNALIA) on optimization agents interaction in a bearing production line, made use of MAS4AI as point of departure, detailing the project’s holistic system architecture encompassing smart factories, smart machines and smart components, hierarchy layers, objectives and vision, anchored in five industrial pilot cases; the speaker identified heterogeneous data, data preprocessing, process modelling and scalability as the main barriers preventing the adoption of AI in manufacturing.  

Building on the previous session, Kosmas Alexopoulos (LMS), also based his presentation on the MAS4AI project, detailing the agents for planning activities in the bicycle industry at factory level, specifically the planning of the painting department. 

All presentations are available via this link. 

Foresight Workshop – 19/10/2022 

On the 19th of October, EFFRA organized a workshop on the topic of foresight & recommendations.  This workshop was inquiring a selection of ongoing projects about the following aspects. 

  • Added value - Impact - Value proposition. 
  • Significant innovations and achievements. 
  • Key Exploitation Results. 
  • Gaps and challenges regarding digital manufacturing. 

All the presentations are available here. 

The associated public deliverable (D3.5 ‘Foresights and Recommendations of Digital Manufacturing Platforms for a Digital Europe’,) can be found here) 

Connected Factories Final Event – 23/11/2022 

On the 23rd of November, EFFRA had the pleasure of organising and hosting the final event of the Connected Factories Coordination and Support Action. Around one hundred attendees were present in this in-person knowledge sharing and networking event taking place in Brussels’ Bluepoint Building, during which the topics discussed under the banner of the manufacturing's digital transformation ranged from cutting-edge topics such as circular economy and artificial intelligence to crosscutting themes such as interoperability, standardisation and cybersecurity. 

The event was opened by DG Connect's Head of Unit Malgorzata Nikowska, who stressed the importance of digitalisation and synergies for both public sector and private companies in terms of future resilience, highlighting that the manufacturing sector’s digitalisation rate of 35% is far from the European Commission’s goals. For the Head of Unit, the “ConnectedFactories project is a fantastic way to show how we can achieve these ambitious objectives” and EFFRA’s catalogue of use cases and success stories as a tool from which others can draw inspiration. Beyond Horizon Europe, the Head of Unit presented the Digital Europe programme, which seeks to bridge the gap between research and market implementation in AI, high performance computing and cybersecurity, as well as the European Digital Innovation Hubs, a network which will help addressing daily needs while giving companies the opportunity to ‘test before investing’ while building a bridge between the local and European levels. 

EFFRA’s executive director Željko Pazin and EFFRA’s board member and ConnectedFactories 2 coordinator, Rikka Virkkunen (VTT), provided an overview of the project, in terms of what can be done with digital technologies and the different steps in the scenario as well as providing inspiration for future projects in terms of pathways, crosscutting factors and enablers, which can all be consulted on the ConnectedFactories website 

In the first session, dedicated to pathways, Sergio Gusmeroli (Politecnico di Milano) started by presenting the transition from Connected Factories 1 to Connected Factories 2 pathways anchored in data spaces highlighting that companies are still not sufficiently engaged with data. For the researcher, in order to make data spaces more attractive to the manufacturing sector we should focus on producing fair, high value pools of data, as well as the necessary infrastructure to use and exchange data, and the appropriate governance models and mechanisms, implying an implementation of open data formats. The pathways generated by the ConnectedFactories projects 1 and 2 can be consulted here. Katri Valkokari (VTT) focused on the circular economy pathway, exploring digitalisation as a key enabler and highlighting how the European manufacturing industry has the potential to be a forerunner if there is a commitment to the dissemination of practical cases and knowledge. 

During the second bloc, the event gave the floor to six projects - Qu4lity, Zero Defect Manufacturing Platform (ZDPM), the European Factory Platform (EFPF), Kyklos 4.0, Digiprime, and SHOP4CF – to present their demonstrators as well as key findings and challenges.  

Qu4lity’s Oscar Lazaro presented the project’s vision and highlighted the importance of moving at the speed of business, balancing flexibility and quality.  ZDPM’s Stuart Campbell too stressed how the project aims at building up companies to respond to business reality, presenting their digital platform, i4FS, for connected smart factories aiming at excellence in manufacturing through zero defect processes and products. EFPF’s Usman Wajid also focused on the importance of collaborations, presenting the project as a platform developed with the goal of connecting different stakeholders of digital manufacturing under a federated smart factory ecosystem.  

Responding to manufacturing’s high consumption of energy and natural resources, Kyklos 4.0’s Jason Mansell stressed the importance of monitoring to achieve real circularity, highlighting how the project is working to optimize processes of sustainability. Digiprime’s Marcello Colledani presented the wide implementation of circular value chains in different manufacturing sectors, identifying how the information asymmetries in the stakeholders involved in such processes lead to a large set of inefficiencies, as well as how the lack of understanding from the side of the consumer is blocking the boost of the demand of such products. SHOP4CF’s Pieter Becue dedicated his presentation to the human aspect of smart factories and digitalization, stressing that the role of technology is not to replace workers but rather to provide them with improved conditions which allow for increased well-being and newfound relevance. 

The last bloc of the agenda was dedicated to crosscutting aspects, namely interoperability, standardization, business aspects, cybersecurity, and skills and human aspects.  

Luis Usatorre (Tecnalia) described how ConnectedFactories 2 has embedded circularity in the concept of interoperability, concluding that although there is no single solution for interoperability in manufacturing it remains important to address trust, safety and resilience in data and move from the automation pyramid towards the cyber-physical system concept.  

Olga Meyer (Fraunhofer IPA) discussed the importance of not only developing strategies and standards but also communicating the results and providing help to projects who wished to transfer their results, wrapping up the discussion by introducing the starting project Stand4EU.  

Katri Valkokari (VTT) discussed the business aspects and continuation of the marketplaces and platforms developed by the projects, focusing on the added-value for customer clients and the business reality in the manufacturing industry under an outcome-based economy; mentioning the hype around the metaverse and what that would  mean for manufacturing in terms of benefits and new roles, Valkokari advises a balance between disruptive and incremental changes.  

Ulrich Seldeslachts (LSEC) highlighted that for the past year, manufacturing has been the industry with the largest incidence of cybersecurity attacks, namely ransomware, extortion and cryptocurrency, proposing that companies try to build on already existing assets to create visibility, harden brownfield operations, control peripheral ports, conduct regular cybersecurity testing, and include vendors in the process. In addition, Ulrich brought attention to the different legal frameworks and directives on the matter, with a focus on the Cyber Resilience act, which indicates the specific obligations of the manufacturing sector before bringing products to the market.  

Finally, addressing skills and the human aspects, Kosmas Alexopoulos (LMS/University of Patras) highlighted the needs for reskilling in manufacturing vis-a-vis digitalisation and the different pathways identified by the ConnectedFactories project, as well as relevant soft skills, characterizing the different worker profiles and the training necessary. 

The event was closed with the presentation of the Digital Transformation use cases catalogue by Meike Reimann (S2i), who also detailed the work done and step-by-step approach of the ConnectedFactories 2 national and regional workshops. Reimann highlighted how pathways are valuable for both industry and academia and crosscutting factors should be considered along with digitalisation, drawing attention to understanding each company’s optimal level of digitalization, trends, and key barriers, with use cases providing practical and comprehensive examples. 

If you did not have a chance to attend the event, you can find all the recordings of the sessions in our YouTube playlist. Their respective presentations in PDF format are also available via this link.