Industry 4.0 - Ten Years Later Digital Transformations in Manufacturing and Work

Wednesday 17 May 2023, 09:00 CEST - Friday 19 May 2023, 17:00 CEST

Università degli Studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia - UNIMORE

Dipartimento di Economia Marco Biagi

Type of event: 
Sun, 02/19/2023 - 23:59

Ten years ago the concept of Industry 4.0 emerged in Germany and spread globally. Ten years later, Industry 4.0 remains a “vision”: the fast diffusion of digital technologies in manufacturing and the development of fully interconnected digital factories have not materialised (yet). Nonetheless it is a “vision” that has already triggered a series of transformations that are changing the way manufacturing processes and work are organised and the way we look at the future of work, employment and manufacturing. This international conference aims to bring together different theoretical and empirical contributions with a double perspective. We want to look back at what we have learned so far and how this has changed our collective understanding of what I.40 is and how it impacts worker and organisations. read more

Gerpisa contributor/s

Disponible sous peu - Available shortly

The conditions for a real debate on electrification


A major report on the issue of European automotive electrification, published online in early December, sheds new light on the matter. It shows that it is probably the mistakes made in the past that have given electrification the status it now has as the only feasible solution. It also shows that the dead ends of the past will resurface. The debate opened up at that time may lead either to questioning the Brussels choice or to seeking to reorient the conditions for its implementation.

It is not wrong to say that, as Le Point said on Friday 16 December, a form of 'self-censorship' on the part of Europe is currently weighing on the debates concerning electrification. 
It is undeniably desirable, even essential, to get out of this self-censorship in 2023 as the irremediable effects of the decisions confirmed in 2022 to move away from fossil fuels accelerate and as each European country seeks in this context to jointly manage the decline of the old sector and the rise of the new. read more

Where does the EPZ divide go?


The debate on EPZs is still a debate among experts, but it is beginning to gain importance in the field of political politics. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it is true that car and mobility issues cannot be reduced to purely technical debates when they relate to our "living together". However, when we look at the issue from this point of view, we have to admit that, although it cannot be reduced to the question of whether or not the "bobos" should impose their rules, the question does oppose two rather incompatible points of view.

Taking advantage of the publication of a note from the Terra Nova think tank signed by Thierry Pech (director general of the said think tank) and Mélanie Heard (head of its Health Unit), the editorialist Thomas Legrand signed an article in the daily Libération on Friday entitled: "The EPZs, too easy targets of demagogues". read more

The Estonian Wuling Hongguang Mini and the imminent question of Chinese vehicle assembly in Europe


Cars are not textiles or consumer electronics and products travel more readily within a region than across the globe. For this reason, the "Chinese question" will soon cease to be the question of imports and their possible containment and become that of the assembly of Chinese vehicles in Europe. What attitude will Europe then develop? Everything converges today to cast doubt on its ability to develop a different Chinese policy from the one that is taking shape in the case of the Wuling Hongguang Mini entering Europe through the Estonian door.

At a time when we were worried about American protectionism and Emmanuel Macron was going to raise with President Biden the question of exporting European vehicles to North America, which only interests German manufacturers and the Chinese Volvo, it was announced that an electric vehicle called the FreZe Nikrob EV would be marketed in France in 2023 by the Estonian group Dartz, with a starting price of 12 or 13,000 euros, minus the bonus. read more

Should manufacturers prepare for a 'return to normal'?


In the interview with Marc Hedrich, President of Kia France, published by Autoactu on 16 November, we read: "Today, the situation is easy with an insufficient capacity to produce what the customers demand, at some point this will turn around". If we follow this a priori sensible reasoning, then the perception that we can have of the strategic relevance of the new distributor contracts changes significantly.

While the European car world is only interested in the new contracts that the two main manufacturers, VW and Stellantis, are offering to their networks, it should perhaps listen more carefully to the arguments of those who have doubts about these choices. This is all the more important as even the two manufacturers most determined on the surface to take the step of transferring the carrying of their networks' stocks to themselves are giving themselves some time and for the moment reserving the new contractual scheme for the management of only a part of their products. read more

Stellantis: during the transition, relocations continue!


The announcement in the week of 14 November of a doubling of the production capacity of the Stellantis factory in Kenitra was presented, like the announcement of the construction project of the factory 7 years ago, as intended to satisfy the African and Middle Eastern needs. However, it is a reaffirmation by the group of a clear strategic course: the competition of sites, employees and states.

Continuing the discourse which has been his since the construction project of the Kenitra factory was born, the management of Stellantis presented last week its project of doubling the assembly capacity of the factory as being intended to allow the company to hold a leading position in the expansion of the African and Middle Eastern markets.

The Moroccan partners are trying not to interfere too much with this communication strategy but are more explicit about the real ambition of the project by putting forward the main economic virtue that this investment will have, beyond the jobs created directly and indirectly: exports. Thus, the Minister for Industry and Foreign Trade, Ryad Mezzour, was pleased in May with the growing automobile surplus recorded. He stated: 'In terms of volume, Morocco is the leading exporter of cars to the European Union ahead of China, Korea, Japan, Turkey... The best-selling car in Europe is made in Morocco. read more

Should the old, multi-faceted and chaotic Alliance be replaced by five new specialised entities?


As Florence Lagarde underlined on Friday, the speech on the method made by Luca De Meo and his teams at dawn on Tuesday seemed to convince the press but did not really seduce the analysts and the markets. This is bad timing because, obviously, it is first of all them who were targeted since it is the fate of the Renault share that the project aims to ward off. Behind the reorganisation, it is the endorsement of a weakening of the Alliance which is at stake.

By isolating, albeit fictitiously, the electrical activities in Ampere, Luca de Meo and his teams think that they can make the new entity be valued at 10 billion euros (the equivalent of the value of Renault on 11/11/2022) even though it would be a very small minority in terms of activity and workforce and destined to be rather loss-making for a few years. If this were to be the case, the shares of Ampere which would be bought by the partners or by the public would make it possible to bring in new money at the time of the IPO without increasing the company's indebtedness and without destabilising the shareholder structure of Renault, renamed Power in the project. read more

The realpolitik of Clepa and the political over-investment of the 2026 deadline


The European situation is now structured by the 2035 deadline and one might have the impression that the hesitations, procrastinations and debates are now over. In fact, because certain issues such as heavy goods vehicles remain open and, above all, because a sort of "review clause" has been provided for in 2026, the opponents of electric vehicles are pretending to adhere to the agreement but have not said their last word. An explanation of the text of the Clepa secretary-general's editorial published on 2 November shows this to be true. read more

Adding fuel to the fire or moving towards a European automotive new deal


While the debate in Brussels is in the process of being closed, it is tending to become hysterical in Paris. More precisely, the anti-electronic people are noisy there, while the supporters of the choices made in Brussels are as vocal across the border as they are coy on the banks of the Seine. For them to get out of this schizophrenia, they would undoubtedly have to stop considering that industrial management will follow in order to give themselves the means to propose a new European industrial electric deal for the European automobile industry.

The week before the 'feast of the dead' was the week of the final burial of the combustion engine in Europe by 2035. It began in France with the meeting on Tuesday 25 October of the first ministerial committee on the ZFE-m. It followed the week of the Paris Motor Show and Equip'Auto, which had already placed the automobile issue at the heart of the public debate, highlighting in particular the Chinese offensive and the risk of seeing electrification offer it unhoped-for chances of success. read more

The French commercial and industrial automotive problem is not Chinese but European


The week of the Motor Show was one of interaction between the French political world and the two manufacturers. At a time when the latter must manage, without having the choice of technologies, a very rapid decarbonisation of the vehicles they market, public support is there. It is not surprising and rather legitimate in this context that a form of national preference should be requested if it cannot be demanded. In the European context, however, it is only possible to make support conditional on production in the EU. This may not be sufficient.

As could be expected, the Motor Show, deserted by many major brands, was not attended by Chinese manufacturers. This led Carlos Tavares and others to express a fear, that of seeing the automobile market, which has become electric by political decision, handed over on a platter to Chinese manufacturers and brands.

This fear, whether real or feigned, expresses a more general feeling in a large part of the automotive world, which consists of reproaching politicians for naively allowing themselves to be convinced by a fantastical plot that would have brought together Beijing, the ecologists - whom they like to call the "green Khmers" - and the urban bobos who vote for them, and a major part of the Brussels technocracy and the large European States. read more

Renault-Nissan Alliance, the myth of "necessary rebalancing"


The rebalancing of the Alliance is now a 'chestnut' in the automotive press. In fact, the Alliance is unbalanced because what founded it was a call for help from a major manufacturer to which a lesser manufacturer responded and which did its job so well that the imbalance was confirmed. Add to this the arbitrations of the Alliance's boss, which are not very conducive to rebalancing, and we have a question which, for the sake of propriety, we refuse to close by reaffirming the right of the most capitalistically powerful. By dint of perseverance, the groundwork is being laid for a wholesale abandonment of legitimate control of one manufacturer by another. If, instead of resisting this pressure, we submit to it, the chestnut tree will die and the Alliance with it. read more

Can Stellantis' commercial reorganisation in France learn from the fiasco of its vehicle logistics?


Since 2014, with undeniable success, the management of Stellantis, under the leadership of Carlos Tavares, has taken over almost all the files and is obsessively seeking to improve the economic performance of the group. Exhilarated by their success, the teams do not seem to see any limits to the application of the recipes which, for the moment, have worked wonderfully. However, recently, the reorganisation of logistics has put a damper on things. The doubt thus created on the infallibility of the rationalisation methods applied upstream would undoubtedly deserve to remain in the minds of those concerned with distribution. The reorganisations of the trade announced last week indicate that this is not the case.

On Wednesday, Autoactu described to us the major changes that Stellantis intends to implement in its commercial organisation in France.
The following day, we learned that, at the same time as these changes, which are worrying the networks, were taking place, a previous reorganisation concerning vehicle logistics "turned into a fiasco". read more

Does designing, producing and selling electric vehicles involve fundamentally new skills and business models?


Although the world's largest manufacturers such as Toyota, VW and Stellantis seem to refuse to split their combustion and electric activities, others such as Geely, Ford and Renault are in the process of making this choice. To justify this, they argue that electric and combustion vehicles are not subject to the same operational treatments. This hypothesis seems very fragile in view of the practices of those who defend it.

While Renault announced in a press release that very important decisions would be announced at the 'Capital Market Day' on November 8, Autoactu tells us that Ford produces its combustion F-150 and its electric Lightning on the same site in Dearborn. AFP reports that "everything is designed to be 'flexible' so the site can be used for both combustion and electric F-150s" and the site manager explains:
"If we've got it wrong, we can build more aircraft with combustion engines. If battery-electric vehicles really take off, as we expect, we can ramp up again. read more

Avoiding the price-wage race, a winning bet for companies and employees


There is currently a debate among economists and economic policy makers (monetary and fiscal) on the appropriate strategies to deal with inflation. The consensus that has not yet disappeared in France and Europe was to avoid following the US authorities in raising interest rates. This consensus is weakening, although there is no lack of arguments to support it.

French and European macroeconomic policies are at a crossroads at the end of September and the automotive industry is both a witness to this and a potential beneficiary and/or victim. Indeed, until the end of the summer, France was still largely living under the influence - or even the umbrella - of a double gamble.

The first was that of Christine Lagarde, who refused to align ECB policy with that of the Fed, even if this had an impact on parities and led to a problematic depreciation of the euro. Underlying this gamble was the priority given to the sustainability of public debt in the euro zone.

We know that, since Mario Draghi, the ECB has agreed, in order to save the euro, to change its stance and doctrine in order to remove the question of the assessment of the quality of public debt from the appreciation of the markets and thus considerably reduce the spreads of which the "club med" was victim. read more

The Renault split: a "false good idea"?


Following the example of Ford or Volvo, Renault says that it is studying a project to split up its assets, distinguishing between combustion on the one hand and electric on the other. If the project, which is still very unfinished, were to take shape, then it could resolve some difficult immediate financial questions, but it would nevertheless present some important dangers. The first would concern the durability of the Alliance and the second the ability of a "new Renault" thus conformed to make use of the indispensable synergies between new and old knowledge and know-how.

Sign of the times, Renault's current situation is no longer industrial, technological or strategic. In April 2022, it consists of an examination of the opportunity that a split between the moribund combustion engine assets and the future assets associated with electric vehicles would represent, from the financial point of view and from the point of view of the phantasmatic "balance of the Alliance". read more

Avoiding Chinese domination of the European electrified car industry


To get the EU to back down on this issue, opponents of the battery electric vehicle (BEV) frequently cite the threat of Chinese domination. This is a very real threat, not only in China and/or in the field of batteries, where it is already evident, but also in the long term on the automotive market itself in Europe. However, on closer inspection, it becomes clear that it is not so much electrification as the distribution, industrial development and product strategies of the Europeans that offer the Chinese offensive the most powerful vectors for success.

In its article at the end of August on the 'conquest of Europe' by Chinese manufacturers, the daily Les Echos pointed out that 'traditional distributors are tempted by Chinese approaches' and that 'some, such as Aiways and MG, are also taking advantage of the demand from short-term rental companies, to whom manufacturers prefer the most profitable sales channels'. read more

What happened to the volumes?


Since the Ford T 115 years ago, there has been widespread agreement that the car industry is first and foremost a volume industry. It so happens that, with the pandemic and the shortage of semi-conductors, the European industry is experiencing for the first time a drastic drop in volumes sold that is compatible with maintaining surprisingly high levels of profitability. This has led to a conviction, expressed quite clearly by Stellantis management in Sochaux on 5 September, that volumes no longer matter - or matter much less - from now on. Based on recent experience, this conviction deserves to be questioned and the symmetrical path should continue to be considered with interest.

On 5 September, Stellantis organised a tour of its compacted and optimised Sochaux factory for the press. Insofar as the factory produces the flagship model, the symbol of Peugeot's rebirth and recovery, the 3008, this was an organised event to give observers and analysts an idea of what the company's strategic vision of the market is and how to adapt to it. read more

Barely envisaged, the already contested relocations deserve to be defended


Barely envisaged, relocations already contested deserve to be defendedWhile we continue to import massively the vehicles we consume, whether electric or thermal, the movement to relocate assemblies, barely begun, is already being contested in the name of the obvious economic advantages of globalisation. Faced with this counter-offensive from the supporters of globalisation, we must stand firm and continue to try to make electrification an opportunity for the reindustrialisation of the French car industry.

In terms of jobs, added value, volumes produced and foreign trade, the French automobile industry has experienced a fairly rapid descent into hell over the last twenty years. This is mainly due to the gap that has been created between the vehicles that the French buy and those that the manufacturers believe can be profitably assembled in France: the market is dominated by the B segment, which the French manufacturers have decided not to assemble in France. read more

The depreciation of the euro threatens public support for the ecological transition and the car industry


The car industry's dependence on politics and public funding is traditional. It is particularly pronounced in 2022 given the need to share the burden of the transition. More than its effects on the cost of imports and/or on the capacity of the European car industry to export, the evolution of the dollar/euro exchange rate, which has seen the European currency lose more than 15%, is important for its effects on the macroeconomic situation. Indeed, the forced march towards the electric vehicle, which is already difficult to digest for the European car industry, would be even more difficult if the relative generosity of the States observed up to now were to be called into question by the rise in interest rates and the consequences that would be drawn from this in terms of public finance.

In 2022, and for a few more years, the European automotive industry will be undergoing a transition imposed by climate change, which politicians have deemed not to have been taken into account quickly and vigorously enough by industry. In the face of this timidity and fears - well-founded - of exposing oneself to the duplicity of manufacturers, a very interventionist consensus emerged in Europe in 2015 and was strengthened step by step thereafter to lead to a ban on the registration of combustion vehicles - including hybrids - in 2035. read more

Electric vehicles: taking the Chinese route to avoid being left behind


Volkswagen seems to be experiencing difficulties in China in order to avoid being ousted by the Chinese brands on the electric or electrified vehicle market. This difficulty, which is also that of Tesla in the face of BYD and the other major Chinese players, refers to the success of the industrial and technological policy of the Chinese authorities, which aimed to ensure that electrification would allow the sinicisation of the Chinese automobile. In China, as in Europe and the United States, this reality calls for reflection and policies that cannot be reduced to a headlong rush to move upmarket.

At the beginning of July, the press reported the appearance in China of the first true copy of the Citroën Ami, priced at 2,500 euros.

The same week, commenting on the figures for global sales of electric or electrified vehicles (the famous NEVs for New Energy Vehicles) in the first half of 2022, commentators stressed that Tesla was losing its global leadership to BYD. For example, Forbes reported, "BYD delivered 641,350 EVs and plug-in hybrids to customers in the first half of the year, up 315 percent from a year earlier, compared with Tesla's 564,743, up 46 percent." read more

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