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ADMA 1st online Learning Network Event

Exchange challenges & solutions related to the highest ADMA FoF maturity levels

On the 27th of March, the 3rd Belgian LNE gathered (remotely) twelve Factory of the Future SME leaders and transformation experts to exchange best practices, discuss remaining barriers as well as possible solutions with respect to the highest ADMA FoF maturity levels.


Company Guests (5 CxO’s of Factories of the Future)

  1. Marc Moris – Continental
  2. Guy De Winne – Newtec
  3. Peter Tans – Provan
  4. Zakaria  Haajou – Continental
  5. Tom Hamelinckx – Newtec


  • Paul Peeters – Agoria


  • Anje van Vlierberghe – Agoria (expert on T1 – Advanced Manufacturing Technology)
  • Thomas van den Haute – Sirris (expert on T3 – ECO Factory)
  • Robrecht Janssens – Agoria (expert on T5 – Human Centred Organisation)
  • Marc Bollen – Sirris (expert on T4 – End-to-end Customer Focussed engineering & T2 – Digital Factory)
  • Geert Jacobs – Agoria (expert on T7 – Value Chain oriented Open Factory)
  • Veronique Dossogne – Sirris (expert on T6 – Smart Manufacturing & T2 – Digital Factory)

Goal & expected outcomes:

  • Exchange best practices
    • Both the experts as well as the factory leaders shared examples and experiences  illustrating maturity levels 4 and 5 of the different ADMA transformation topics
  • Discuss remaining barriers
    • As the maturity level 5 has been described as a level that ‘the best of the best’ European manufacturing SME’s could reach within a reasonable timeframe, barriers or potential roadblocks that hamper an SME to move in that direction have been exchanged
  • Brainstorm around possible solutions & actions
    • With the help of the ADMA experts, possible solutions to remove the barriers were presented and discussed.

T1 – Advanced Manufacturing Technologies

Strategy-wise, Continental argued that for manufacturing technology needs for which a technological solution is not yet commercially available, the company should focus on being very creative towards ROI (Return on Investment). However, as disruptive technological initiatives (e.g. SpaceX approach around rocket-technologies) sometimes can turn the mindset of companies completely upside down, Newtec replied that applying proven technology from other sectors will be a must for a ‘top notch’ Factory of the Future and will also involve looking at new business models.

With respect to Health & safety at the shop floor there is of course the necessary legislation, but Factories of the Future need to move ‘beyond needed measures’, i.e. always trying to go one or two steps further. Early adopters sharing best practices in dealing safely with e.g. AGVs and cobots should be promoted and rewarded.

T2 – Digital Factory

Talking about needed digital capabilities, the companies were fully aligned on the fact that new projects should always be set-up fully cross-departmental, thereby connecting different business processes by using an overarching platform, based upon online, real-time databases. As per today however, the experts said that in many enterprises each department still would like to have their own, customized, separate tool for their part of the business process. Therefore, effectively tackling silo- thinking will always be an important challenge to overcome..

“ It’s all about continuing and further expanding our company’s Industry 4.0 journey. Of course, to know what exactly to focus upon digitally, it all has to start with a broad long term  vision. Then the people, the culture, the organisation model as well as the production model should all be tuned to that vision. This means, at a given point in time, EVERY SINGLE EMPLOYEE has to embrace the digital way of working … “


With respect to developing customer-oriented applications, also customers often want their own, specific (reporting) formats. As a customer-oriented Factory of the Future, you can start ‘serving’ each customer individually, but this is not really a Lean way of working…  the Factories of the Future therefore were very clear in this respect:  “Don’t automate ‘waste’, but instead digitise your customer experience based upon a flexible, modular process way of thinking”.

Finally, getting a transparent view on the shop floor was considered of crucial importance for every Factory of the Factory. The CxO’s pointed out very clearly that it should all be about “Know what’s happening on the production floor”  and “How to make the right decisions”. Moreover, automated decision making based upon selecting/uploading the right data from a strong real-time performance package (efficiency, KPI’s, …) should always be further complemented by an empirical model (which can work with less data). As one CxO expressed it: “Data analytics is important, but understanding the underlying model is even more crucial.”

T3 – ECO Factory

With respect to environmental rules and regulations, Europe’s Green Deal is expected to change things drastically. Besides, also manufacturing SME customers – and even the company’s supply chain more generally – will also become increasingly “ECO”-demanding.

The 5 CxO’s were well aware of the challenge that some business processes still need to be adapted. It is generally expected by the companies that

  1. there will certainly also be impact areas beyond the company’s borders
  2. the ECO Factory will increasingly also cover the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s)

During the discussion, the themes waste flow management and circular thinking turned out to remain very difficult for the companies to tackle in an effective way.

“In current Covid19-crisis times, RESILIENCE is becoming more and more important, also for manufacturing SME’s. Companies can be innovative also with respect to risk analysis (also e.g. for fossil fuels), thereby creating strong, tested backup plans. These plans preferably are based upon a detailed analysis of the most relevant issues, including the identification of leveraging partnerships.”


T4 – End-to-End Customer Focussed Engineering

The Factory of the Future representatives provided following best practices with respect to Customer integration, not only at the start-up of new (engineering) projects, but right through to production:

  • Customer Support and SQM people structurally join new product development discussions;
  • Special, customized product and/or process characteristics are clearly displayed on the work floor and employees need to follow appropriate training;
  • Traceability systems, creating more transparency for the customer, create a lot of (customer) value;
  • Logging of those customer wishes we cannot meet yet, but will become subject to discussion at the earliest moment possible;
  • Not only talk to your customer, but also involve the customer’s customers (many times these are end users).

The servitization theme keeps being quite of a challenge to manufacturing SMEs. According to the participating experts, customer challenges increasingly get solved through technology, expanding functionality and/or specific data capture. These factors always should be the focus when looking which new servitization activities could be set up.

For the topic ‘tools and approach’ following two benchmark aspects were mentioned :

  1. Always evaluate the choice and/or development of new tools from a ‘value for the customer’ point of view (VALUE ENGINEERING)
  2. Limit ‘waste’ for the customer as much as possible (LEAN DEVELOPMENT)

T5 – Human-Centred Organisation

The ‘Wellbeing and work quality’-theme stimulated a lengthy and in-depth discussion between all participants. According to Robrecht Janssens, the end goal always should be a rich range of tasks for the employee. This means that for an individual operator repetitive tasks alternate with cognitive tasks. Next, this is supplemented with a high variety in tasks, always keeping the individual employee in control, and always within the context of the company’s operational objectives. In other words, it is not full freedom and freeriding for the employee, but it holds strongly to the principle of ‘My boss doesn’t decide for me the things I can decide for myself’.

The Factory of the future leaders further agreed that one of their major tasks is to stimulate the organization to be flexible and change-oriented. Answering questions like ‘How many (management) layers do we need?’, ‘What is the real added value of every layer?’, ‘What do we really need?’, ‘What’s the role of leadership?’ turned out to be of utmost importance to them.

Real Factory of the Future leaders break the hierarchy and create a broad employee support base (= vertical role) enabling employees to work smoothly and horizontally within the organization. It was agreed upon between all participants that maturity level 5 is about letting go of a ‘resource management’-attitude towards employees, and at the same time increase the focus on coaching and jointly making arrangements regarding the work organisation as well as actively engage all employees in a dialogue on strategy and competence development.

The current worldwide COVID-19 sanitary crisis speaks for itself. From a business perspective, this new reality is profoundly changing not only how organizations do business, but also how business leaders lead in the face of a VUCA environment. Want to know more? Please have a look at following blog message.

QRM Institute

T6 – Smart Manufacturing

There was a general consensus among the participants around the fact that Flexible & quick response management does not only apply for those manufacturing SME’s making small series products, but also for (larger series) companies that make a lot of prototypes and as a consequence frequently execute machine setting changes. These change moments are very often the ‘make or break’ factor with respect to Quality. All participating Factories of the Future acknowledged their continuing need for real-time, exact data in order to know exactly who has to do what at what time.

“Producing ‘First Time Right’ is key for a modern manufacturing company. Nowadays, manufacturing SME’s have plenty of data at their disposal to be able to predict – even at component level – how quickly production is up to the needed quality levels. This allows for very precise integration of preventive controls into the production process. At our shop floor, almost every operation has integrated detection and preventive measures.”


About the Advanced Manufacturing Support Centre

The 3-year the Advanced Manufacturing Support Centre (ADMA) pilot project started June, 2018. As per March 2020, the ADMA team already has

  • performed >300 ADMA maturity scans;
  • engaged more than 100 Supporting Organisations in 22 different European countries;
  • certified >50 ADMA advisors through train-the-trainer sessions;
  • deployed one, uniform European transformation methodology for manufacturing SMEs;
  • sent >40 ADMA transformation plans to manufacturing SMEs in 11 different countries.
  • organised 4 Learning Network Events (LNE) out of the 15 LNEs that will be organised in total.
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