Industry 4.0, smart industry, industry of the future, factory of the future… all those expressions refer to the dynamic of transformation that occurred in industrial companies over the past decades, making them shift towards the digitalization of their operations. This digitalization of industry works step by step: the modernization of the production chain, the development of technologies related to the industry of the future and skills development to face this transformation process.
Let’s focus on software industrialization, the key element to improve software production processes and, above all, to create product value!
Industry 4.0 or Factory of the future, what are we talking about?
In France as in the rest of the world, companies operating in the industrial sector have to face multiple challenges: a fast-paced market whose standards can change overnight, the emergence of new hyper-innovative technological solutions, customer-centric business relationships and ever-changing consumption patterns. Software is the one thing allowing to bridge them all.
The new industrial revolution
Mechanization, hydraulic and steam engine revolution
Beginning of the 20th century
Mass production, assembly line, electric revolution
End of the 20th century
Programming and automation
Industry 4.0: digitalization of the factory, modernization of the software production chain
The Factory of the Future refers to the 4th industrial revolution after mechanization, industrialization, and automation. It reflects a concept that aims to make factories more intelligent by using new production tools as well as the Internet of Things (IoT). This technological revolution also brings cultural and organizational changes for companies. In fact, it focuses on making factories even more efficient, more competitive, and somehow even more agile, at a period of time when the value of products and services is closely linked to “software”: embedded software via a chip, non-embedded software in a drone, service software and so on.
Industry 4.0: mastering software is key
Industrial equipment is continuously evolving: high-performance machines, information technologies, communicating sensors, the IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things), project management tools, software quality monitoring. The ultimate goal? Gathering, centralizing, organizing, delivering… but also producing high-end products, increase productivity, shorten delivery times, optimize manufacturing costs, and finally improve time-to-market.
Factory of the future relies on software. Mastering software development has to be at the very heart of industrial companies’ digital transformation process.
In the era of Industry 4.0, software is essential at all levels. Actually, it has become the cornerstone of all markets, the key providing a competitive advantage. In other words, nowadays the mastery of one’s software development is essential for the digital transformation of companies, whether we take into account:
– the software for the improvements needs of companies’ IS,
– or the software as a component of a product or a service, which is a means of bringing innovation, value.
Why does industries’ digital transformation rely on “software”?
Here we are not saying that digital transformation involves installing new software in terms of « tools ». Industry 4.0 should be implemented to serve the company’s strategy and, like any process of change, it should go hand in hand with both a corporate culture shift and changes in the operational functioning of the company; all this, ensuring communication and collaboration among all the business departments. Hence, what we mean here when talking about software is « mastering the software development process »: monitoring, automatizing, and managing the entire software development and production chain.
Modernizing their software production chain is crucial for companies to:
1. Meet market demand
Every company has to meet the market’s expectations. In B2C as well as in B2B settings, customers are the first to go digital, expecting companies to come up with more and more technological innovations, more connected products and new applications. Moreover, the IoT is a significant source of opportunities for manufacturers.
2. Differentiate from competitors
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a technology-based on interconnected devices that can analyze and interact with their surrounding environment, thanks to state-of-the-art and quality software solutions. These latter enable them to communicate, exchange and interpret the data collected. No matter their branch of activity – for instance, medical, aeronautics, defense, security or automotive – industrial companies should come to realize that nowadays the value of their offers lies in the quality of the technological enhancements they provide. Software embodies an essential opportunity and key element of differentiation: thanks to it, a company can sustainably establish itself in the market and even disrupt it.
3. Deal with a complex ecosystem
Industry 4.0 has an impact on both the core functioning of the factory and the external environment of the company. Beyond internal operations, this industrial digitalization also involves interactions with key partners throughout the value chain, from supplier management to customer relations. Therefore, companies should make their partners participate directly in their software production process, providing them with a secure collaborative environment.
Transform your production chain through software
There is no doubt that mastering product software is one of the drivers of the industries’ digital transformation. Since the entire organization of the product lifecycle is evolving, the real question is how to modernize the production chain, now being the software production chain?
A more collaborative workspace
The digital revolution also implies a cultural revolution. Actually, a mindset shift is necessary to evolve towards a less fragmented and hence a more collaborative company, where each team aims at both aligning with common objectives and no longer merely carrying out its daily tasks.
Information sharing goes through a physical and also virtual work environment, enabling different business departments to directly get in touch. In fact, digitalization encompasses the industry value chain at all levels, this way creating a software factory: from R&D to manufacturing, quality, delivery, sales, customer service…
Automated development processes
The digital transformation of industrial companies doesn’t mean massively adopting technologies. Nevertheless, management and production monitoring tools are becoming more and more essential for companies’ steering. Any revolution in the industrial world includes an automation component. For the Fourth Industrial Revolution, this means automating as much as possible both the production and the maintenance of the application, to improve quality and shorten delivery time. We’re talking about the creation of a software factory. Undertaken developments can no longer wait for long production runs and this is precisely what explains the irresistible rise of DevOps approaches and tools, meeting a real need in today’s digital society.
The current major challenge is to master tools for version management, projects building, test automation as well as to ease applications deployment. Besides, the implementation of these good practices throughout the different development phases contributes to the final quality of your applications.
As proven by many different large organizations, software engineering is at the very heart of industrial companies concerns. In order not to lose your focus along the process, it is of paramount importance to provide your teams with a working environment that best adapts to their main requirements in terms of production automation and fast software delivery.
Keep the control and ensure digital continuity thanks to Open Source software
Digital continuity is the ability to maintain all the digital information of a product so that it is available for the entire duration of its lifecycle. The purpose is to ensure the information is complete, continuously available, and therefore usable.
The more a company is equipped with integrated solutions, PLM, ALM, etc., the more traceability is facilitated over the entire lifecycle of its projects. A solution that covers absolutely everything is illusory, for the moment, while developing everything internally – as to make sure to meet the specific needs of one’s company – is not keeping up with the times…
So, any solution out there? Fortunately, there is. And they’re Open Source: in fact, companies should rely on open source solutions because they ensure the integration and consistency of the applications they exploit as well as the information they produce. This is an efficient way to support cross-functional processes. Moreover, thanks to this kind of platform companies will be able to « become » Agile and set the numerous components of their information system accordingly to their needs, while maintaining digital continuity.
Moreover, only Open Source solutions allow to keep full control of the information system and also to back up an independent digital strategy. Finally, companies will be able to achieve digital continuity, which is something essential to their transformation, only by adopting and integrating this new generation of tools.