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"SMART FACTORY" - What Does it mean for the printing industry?

A race towards the Industry of the Future, the Smart Factory or Industry 4.0, is underway in many countries, including Germany, the originator of the latter name, to signify the advent of the 4th Industrial Revolution. Appeared across the Rhine, and unveiled to the general public by the Association of German Manufacturers of Production Machines and Equipment (Verband Deutscher Maschinenund Anlagenbau, VDMA) at the Hanover Fair in 2011, this concept of Industry 4.0 has been taken up by many other European countries: “l’Industrie du futur” in France, the research programme “Catapult” in the UK, “Fabbrica Digitale” in Italy, “Made Different” in Belgium, “Produktion 2030” in Sweden, “Made in Denmark”, “Produtech” in Portugal, “Industria Conectada 4.0” in Spain, “Production of the Future” in Austria, “Průmysl 4.0” in the Czech Republic, “Smart Industry SK” in Slovakia or “Smart Industry” in the Netherlands, but also worldwide with, for example, the Chinese initiative “Made in China 2025” which is directly inspired by the German initiative, symbolising the entry of the world industry into its fourth revolution. It is characterized in particular by the introduction of the Internet of Things and Services into the production chain, and thus into the graphic chain of printing plants.

Source: Overview of European initiatives for the digitalisation of industry (European Commission – Nov 2018)

Before talking about the fourth revolution, three other industrial revolutions have led to important paradigm shifts in the area of production for manufacturing companies in general and in the area of content reproduction for printing companies in particular. Thus, for these companies, the first revolution, Industry 1.0, marked by the use of steam and mechanical production, and the second revolution, Industry 2.0, driven by electricity, oil and, in the case of printing, the invention of offset, favoured mass production and mass printing for these reproduction companies at a time when demand was stable and products varied little (“any color as long as it is black!”). The third revolution, Industry 3.0, also called "digital revolution", was characterized within the graphic industries by numerous technological advances, the introduction of desktop publishing (DTP), computer assisted production management (CAPM) and computer-to-plate (CTP) to name but a few, but these innovations, although they had a significant impact on the graphic industry, did not result in a change as radical as that caused at that time by the arrival of the Internet. The emergence of web platforms and online printing have led to different expectations and behaviours of customers and clients. In response, Industry 3.0 has begun to promote new manufacturing models, which translate into online printing, print on demand or even unit printing in print shops.