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One Of Europe's Top Business Schools Is Helping Executives Navigate Industry 4.0

Inside the Executive Master in Manufacturing Automation & Digital Transformation at ESCP Europe

Thu Jan 19 2017

Industry 4.0 — a slew of technologies from robotics and 3D printing to virtual reality and data analytics — is rapidly reshaping the way we manufacture, distribute and consume products.

The Executive Master in Manufacturing Automation & Digital Transformation at ESCP Europe is equipping executives with the tools they need to navigate the Fourth Industrial Revolution, in partnership with COMAU, a global leader on advanced manufacturing technology.

Below, Giovanni Scarso Borioli, Academic Director, outlines how.

Which sector is the course focusing on?

This program is geared mostly to manufacturing, the supply chain, and distribution. We are looking at industrial sectors where there is a product at the centre of companies’ business models.

Why is it important for business schools to embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

The leaders of the manufacturing and logistics companies of the future will need to embrace and understand technology much more so than in the past. We’ve gone through decades of leaders who have come from financial and accounting backgrounds. And now there is a trend of the largest companies being run by the same people who wrote the code in the first place, like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook.

Technology is entering the world of industry at a rapid pace. The future generation of leaders need to be able to keep pace.

How are you preparing managers who can lead the engineers of the future?

If you look at the standalone technologies collectively referred to as Industry 4.0, you risk missing the big picture. We are training future leaders to understand the paradigm shift, not each individual technology. This starts with understanding your customers and business model, and developing an agile approach to innovation that is more akin to a software company. Technology companies are very fast at prototyping services and products. In industry, which is heavily regulated, there is typically a slow approach to innovation.

How are you helping executives bring agile innovation into their organizations?

By running a mixture of modules that will cover the most relevant theories and best practices of innovation that originate from digital industries, but can be applied to industrial sectors. And by running a series of laboratories, which are designed around the principle of a hackathon — fast innovation. In a day, participants will need to provide a solution to a problem with a new product or service.

What is the scope for robotics and automation to transform manufacturing? 

Long-term, they will be dramatically transformative. The way we design, manufacture, distribute and consume manufacturing products will change. With data analytics, 3D printing and virtual reality, we can create better products, more efficiently. I recently met the CEO of Siemens UK, who told me the company had built a virtual reality (VR) room for their trains business. Clients who purchase a new train can go inside it using a VR device and make changes to the specification, before it has been built.

This is already changing business models. For example, the industry of hearing aid devices, has been disrupted in the US in just 500 days. The previous business model dictated that a doctor would take a mould of your ear, send the mould to a factory that will manufacture the device, and ship it back to the doctor for delivery to their clients. Then 3D printing came along. Now, the doctor just buys the 3D printing machine. It’s manufacturing as a service.

How do you address the ethical concerns of automation and robotics?

We are going to bring reputable opinions on this topic into the program. There is debate on job creation versus job destruction. There is interesting data showing that, in countries where robotics is picking up, like China, there is job creation. But these are different types of jobs. They are much more skilled. Someone must build, maintain and collaborate with those robots. We call these “cobots” — collaborative robots. There are a variety of answers to this argument, and we can’t provide a conclusion. That is future-guessing. But we will have sessions on these mega-trends.