The digital future? It’s already here: insights from the Financial Times Future of Manufacturing Summit

Automation, digitisation, servitisation… what exactly does the future hold for industry? At the Financial Times Future of Manufacturing Summit on 3 October, senior business leaders, policy makers and journalists assembled in London to find out. As sponsor association to the event, Orgalime joined the debate as the representative of the European engineering sector – the largest industrial branch in the EU.

The summit programme tackled a host of hot topics, with the digital transformation high on the agenda. Throughout the day’s keynotes and panel discussions, one message rang through loud and clear: digitisation is no longer a future trend far-off on the horizon – it is happening right now, right here in Europe. Speakers from companies across the manufacturing sector shared stories of how connected digital technologies are helping them reinvent every aspect of their business, from innovation in product development to collaboration within supply chains.

Automation, machine intelligence and robotics will undoubtedly disrupt work on the factory floor, but the consensus was that while the nature of manufacturing work will change, the need for skilled labour will not. In fact, digitisation and the new business models it enables are already creating exciting new jobs across all sectors. Technologies like additive manufacturing are empowering start-ups to produce components themselves, while the mass customisation trend – which connects customers directly to the production line – is opening up new avenues for established companies to grow their business.

Participating in a panel debate with UK Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable and speakers from GE, McKinsey and the European Commission, Orgalime’s Director General Adrian Harris discussed the role policy has to play in this changing industry landscape. His advice to policy makers at national and EU level? The Fourth Industrial Revolution is underway, but it’s still early days: it is vital to resist any rush to regulate, and rather leave room for European firms to innovate and fully unlock the potential of data-driven business models.

To read more on Orgalime’s recommendations for industrial policy in the digital age, check out our Vision Paper

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