The Industry of the Future, a key issue for IMT Atlantique and the Pays de la Loire Region

From 22 to 24 June, IMT Atlantique is organising "MIM 2022" in Nantes, the high point of the Industry of the Future calendar, which will bring together more than 700 experts and researchers from all over the world. Alexandre Dolgui, president of the event and director of the Automation, Production Engineering and Computer Science department at IMT Atlantique, and David Lemoine, president of the organising committee and researcher in the same department, explain the scope and challenges of this event.

MIM 2022, IFAC conference: the industry of the future

From 22 to 24 June, you are organising the MIM 2022 conference on the industry of the future. What does this event represent?

Alexandre Dolgui: It's an important event for the school, but also for the city of Nantes and the region, because it's a key subject, both in scientific terms and for economic development. MIM takes place every three years. This year, it will bring together more than 700 researchers and experts from all over the world, including world-class figures. In addition, the theme chosen, "New challenges for management and control in the era of Industry 4.0", is at the heart of current concerns. Many questions are being asked, particularly about the reliability and resilience of supply chains. The disruptions linked to Covid or the war in Ukraine have highlighted the importance of these issues. The topics we will cover are therefore very much in line with current events.

David Lemoine: Resources are becoming scarce, and we need to reduce our environmental footprint. One of the questions is: how can we produce better with less? 

How would you define, in a few words, "industry of the future" - or "industry 4.0"?

AD: Industry 4.0 is above all based on the intensive use of digital technology in the company and on the interconnection of its various elements. The use of tools such as massive data, artificial intelligence, simulation, digital twins or the Internet of Things is profoundly changing the way a company operates. The production system and supply chain can be adapted and reconfigured in real time, and dynamic optimisation and self-organisation mechanisms can be put in place. Decision support tools can also be used at all stages of production. This enables the development of 'intelligent' products, integrated production and supply chain planning, and integrated product life cycle management. This is a real paradigm shift for the industrial world.

And what are the recent advances in this area?

AD: In recent years, new tools and new organisational methods have appeared, such as blockchains, which improve traceability; digital twins, which can be used to optimise the operation of production chains, for example; and cloud manufacturing and the Internet of Things. All of this raises a lot of questions - to which the conference will attempt to provide answers.
DL: Generally speaking, companies have more and more data at their disposal to better understand and refine their processes, operating methods and logistics. The rise of big data and AI in the industrial world is a turning point.

In which types of companies, which sectors and which countries are the concepts of the factory of the future most present? And where do France and Europe stand?

AD: The Factory of the Future approach is mainly present in large groups, particularly in the automotive, microelectronics, capital goods and aeronautics sectors. But medium-sized companies are also very involved, such as Lacroix Electronics in our region. Let's just say that the factory of the future is gaining ground just about everywhere - including in start-ups. The United States is at the forefront, of course, thanks in particular to the omnipresence of its digital giants. Asia, and China in particular, is investing heavily. For their part, Germany and France are redoubling their efforts. In Germany, the government has set up an ambitious programme with incentives for companies.
DL: In Europe, it is clearly Germany that is playing a leading role in this area.

Can the rise of Industry 4.0 reshuffle the cards between the various players? In France, can it help with the reindustrialisation desired by the public authorities?

AD: The Germans are convinced that companies will be increasingly connected to the Internet, and that this is a game changer. Industry 4.0 has already transformed the job market in Germany. It is likely that the same development will take place in France.
DL: Industry 4.0 is giving rise to new industrial activities, linked to the digital boom. We are even seeing the emergence of industrial 4.0 start-ups. At IMT Atlantique, an incubator is hosting industrial start-ups. All this can, in a way, encourage the reindustrialisation of the country.

Don't the digital giants have a decisive competitive advantage? Doesn't this pose a problem of sovereignty for Europeans?

AD : The digital giants want to develop their own technologies. If they succeed, they will be able to control a large part of the national and European industry. So we have to try to promote European solutions. It is not too late.

What role does the industry of the future play at IMT Atlantique?

AD: The Institut Mines-Télécom has signed an agreement with the Technical University of Munich (TUM) to create a 'Franco-German academy' dedicated to Industry 4.0. Our department is very involved in this initiative. Three of our projects are financed in this framework. One concerns reconfigurable manufacturing systems (especially for the automotive industry). Another, with Airbus, deals with the supply of the assembly line, integrating logistics, traceability, information exchanges, etc. A third project, called Dreams, aims to organise automobile production lines in such a way that they can be assembled, but also disassembled and recycled at the end of their life cycle - a novel approach.
DL: In addition, our department is coordinating a European project, Assistant, with a budget of 6 million euros over 3 years, which brings together a dozen partners such as Siemens Energy, Stellantis, Atlas Copco (air compressors), etc. The idea is to use artificial intelligence techniques for the design, planning and real-time management of assembly lines in order to optimise their operation and monitoring, and scheduling.

AD : L’Institut Mines-Télécom a signé un accord avec l’Université technique de Munich (TUM) pour créer une « académie franco-allemande » dédiée à l’industrie 4.0. Notre département est très engagé dans cette initiative. Trois de nos projets sont financés dans ce cadre. L’un porte sur les systèmes de fabrication reconfigurables (notamment pour l’industrie automobile). Un autre, avec Airbus, traite de l’approvisionnement de la chaîne de montage, en intégrant la logistique, la traçabilité, les échanges d’informations… Un troisième projet, baptisé Dreams, vise à organiser les chaînes de fabrication automobile de telle façon qu’elles permettent d’assembler, mais aussi de désassembler et de recycler des éléments en fin de vie - une démarche inédite.
DL : Par ailleurs, notre département coordonne un projet européen, Assistant, doté de 6 millions d’euros sur 3 ans, qui réunit une douzaine de partenaires comme Siemens Energy, Stellantis, Atlas Copco (compresseurs d’air) … L’idée est d’utiliser les techniques d’intelligence artificielle pour la conception, la planification et le pilotage en temps réel des chaînes d’assemblage afin d’optimiser leur fonctionnement et leur suivi, l’ordonnancement.

And in terms of training?

DL: Industry 4.0 is present at several levels and in several forms. In particular, two years ago we set up an apprenticeship course on the digital transformation of industrial systems (FIT). It is based on all digital and manufacturing technologies, but also includes energy and environmental issues, as well as human and social sciences. We are training engineers who will help companies to make this change. This course, which is unique in France, takes in about thirty students in the first year. Industry is very keen on this type of profile which will help it to succeed in its digital transformation. And we are pioneers in this type of training.
AD: The training of engineers recruited after a preparatory class, which is the heart of our system, is also concerned by Industry 4.0, through several options: robotics, automation, industrial engineering, decision support, software engineering... This is also true for other courses, such as our international master's degree devoted to the supply chain (MOST). Similarly, the training of doctors is interested in these issues. Our department alone has about thirty doctoral students.
In fact, almost all our students are concerned by the Industry 4.0 revolution. It is an extremely transversal subject, which mobilises almost all the departments at IMT Atlantique: digital, environmental and energy issues, not forgetting the human and social sciences. Our links with companies and our incubators are also concerned.

What do you expect from the conference?

AD: This type of conference is very motivating and stimulating for the school. It puts the spotlight on IMT Atlantique, but also on the city and the region. At the end of the event, the proceedings will be published in free access. So this is also a major scientific communication action. And all this will help us to expand our networks.
DL: The Region was one of the first in France to focus on the industry of the future. Industrialists, local authorities, subcontractors, everyone is involved. Together we have a real legitimacy on this subject. With MIM 2022, we are going to reap the benefits... and, if possible, consolidate our lead.

Interview with David Simchi-Levi

David Simchi-Levi, Professor of Engineering Systems & Director of the Data Science Lab to Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIM 2022 in action

The theme for this tenth edition of MIM is "New challenges for management and control in the Industry 4.0 era". Organised by IMT Atlantique from 22 to 24 June under the aegis of IFAC (International Federation of Automatic Control) it will be held at the Cité des Congrès in Nantes. More than 700 researchers, experts and professionals from around the world are expected to attend. Among them are several world-renowned experts, such as David Simchi-Levi, president of the Data Science Laboratory at MIT, and Michael Pinedo, professor at the Stern School of Business at New York University.
The programme will include a series of prominent lectures, presentations and workshops on current issues in production modelling, management and control in the light of the latest decision support techniques. Discussions will focus in particular on the most recent applications of Artificial Intelligence in industry, as well as on the contribution of new technologies (blockchain, Internet of Things, edge computing, etc.) and emerging scientific fields (big data, data analytics, risk management, etc.) to production management and control. Many other topics will be addressed, such as human-centred production, explainability and ethics in decision support models or Human-Computer Interaction - and their place among decision-making tools for industry.
MIM 2022 is supported, among others, by the Pays de la Loire Region, the City of Nantes and Nantes Métropole

Learn more

Published on 16.06.2022

by Pierre-Hervé VAILLANT

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