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Factory robotisation, automation & digitisation do create jobs

We have some interesting facts for you to discover when (planning to) invest(ing) in robotisation, automation and/or digitisation!

Under the guidance of Agoria and Sirris, industry experts and CEO’s have assessed the past few years the maturity of  more than 50 strongly performing  Belgian manufacturing companies, thereby using the framework of seven Industry 4.0 related transformation areas. From 2013 to 2018, thirty two factories of all kind of sectors and sizes have been awarded the Factory of the Future (FoF) Award.

Belgian FoF Award winning companies < 50 employees 50 – 99 100 –  249 250 – 499 >= 500 Total
Automotive & Aeronautics 1 2 3 2 8
Food processing 1 1 4 1 7
Metal, plastic & electronic components 1 2 1 1 5
Building equipment 1 2 1 4
Textile 1 1 2
Medical & Pharmaceutical 1 1 2
Other 2 1 1 4
Total 4 7 7 9 5 32

Table 1 : size and sector of the Belgian Factories of the Future

As can be seen in Table 1, you don’t always have to be big to become a Factory of the Future. The majority of the awarded factories employ less than 250 people. Especially the automotive, aeronautics and food processing sectors are quite advanced, accounting for about 50% of all Factories of the Future.

Together, these 32 companies invested the past 5 years more than 850m Euro in new (digitally connected) machines, automated and robotised production lines, new CAD-CAM related software, etc.  As a result, a considerable part of the low complexity and/or unskilled jobs have become obsolete in these factories.  This is true. No need to lie about this fact.

However, as a result of the Industry 4.0 related investments, all these companies have become much more efficient. Their quality levels improved significantly and development & production throughput times have been strongly reduced. This in turn enabled them to develop more (customised) products, increase their market share and become benchmarks in their sectors. As a consequence, between 2013 and 2016 their combined turnover grew by 34% (mainly export!), creating the need to hire new people with new skills. A lot of new people… Over a time period of 5 years before receiving the Factory of the Future Award, the total employment of these 32 frontrunner factories has increased by no less than 15%.  To put this figure in perspective : the Belgian industry average over the same time period has shown a decline of 5%, meaning Factories of the Future outperform the average industry employment by a stunning 20%! Well done.

Some people tend to argue that Industry 4.0 is only feasible for companies with a lot of (human) resources. This is not true. One third of the Belgian FoF’s employ less than 100 people. The fact is that these small firms typically decide fast, connect with the right external experts and are able to move ahead swiftly. As a consequence, they benefit to a larger extent from market and new job creation effects (Graph 1).

Graph 1: Factory of the Future employment vs Industry

OK, this is only about Belgium, so what’s the big deal…? Yes, you’re right. However, a same kind of conclusion can be drawn from recent research (CESifo Working Paper No. 7608), collecting job creation data from 1900 Spanish manufacturing companies in 20 different industries.

Graph 2: Job creation in Spanish Industry 4.0 companies

In short: both recent research and the track record of Belgian Factories of the Future prove that automation, robotisation and digitisation do make companies stronger, leading to increased international business success and strong new job growth. Inspired? Ready to take the challenge yourself? Please visit the European Advanced Manufacturing Support Centre @ www.adma.ec and take the short scan. Enjoy.

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