Smart industry is all about digitization of manufacturing – Interview with ISN Conference speaker Evelien Bras, Thales

Smart industry is all about digitization of manufacturing – Interview with ISN Conference speaker Evelien Bras, Thales.

According to Evelien Bras, business innovation manager at Thales Nederland, the bulk of opportunities smart industry offers still lie ahead. “Smart industry is all about the digitization of manufacturing,” says Evelien Bras, who leads an innovation fieldlab for Thales, a worldwide designer and producer of electronics for defence and security applications.

During the Intelligent Sensor Networks Conference (ISNC) on November 15th Evelien Bras will speak about the results of the fieldlab, called ‘The Garden’, with regard to smart industry. The field lab initiates projects around the digital transformation of their supply chain, making it in Bras’ words “an ecosystem of manufacturers.”

What do you mean by this ecosystem?
“It’s about restructuring the whole product lifecycle management together with our suppliers. Not that long ago customers specified to us what kind of product they needed. We put their wishes into a design and sent it off to our suppliers, who had to manufacture it. We integrated their product into an end product, which we shipped to the customer. Nowadays when customers have a need, they want the solution tomorrow, or even today. That means the supply chain cannot be executed sequentially. Our suppliers will need to have integrated their innovations into their products even before there is a demand for them. So that when the opportunity arises, the product is ready. That’s possible only when you can anticipate future developments from inside your own manufacturing process.”

What is driving this change?
“One important thing is the advancement of technology, which has sped up everything. We also see that many end users are no longer interested in specializing themselves in the how. Customers have more and more become end-users of a system. They don’t care how the system works, that’s up to the suppliers to figure out. So know how has shifted from the customer to the supplier. It’s all about structuring your production chain more efficiently.

Are there any risks involved in scaling up to smart industry?
“Definitely, especially cybersecurity risks. There appears to be a lack of awareness about cybersecurity in companies digitizing their production chain. Many entrepreneurs think it’s not all that bad, but I’m afraid the situation today is even worse. That’s why I conclude my lecture at the ISNC by saying, ‘Don’t be naive, do it cybersecure.’”

Surely big companies are aware of those risks?
“Big corporates are aware of them, but we see a struggle about how to put that awareness into action. In my opinion they don’t reserve enough budget to solve the problem responsibly.”

What are the biggest cybersecurity risks when it comes to smart industry?
“In the area of Smart Industry the biggest threat is the loss of property rights, your knowledge. If you spread data and knowledge about system digitally, that information can be tapped. Another threat is being hacked and having systems or production lines shut down. The latter is measurable and in-your-face; you immediately know what’s going on. But if someone breaks into your computer and steals data, it can take companies up to 250 days to find out what happened. There are examples of American companies that were copied in China, with the Chinese company going to market first. And without the Americans realizing they had been copied.”

The interview was originally published on The Intelligent Sensor Networks Conference is organised by Jakajima, in partnership with High Tech Campus Eindhoven.

Go to High Tech Campus website to read the interview