INDUSTRY 5.0 / A technology with a “human touch” to overcome pandemics and crises

Having emerged hit by the global financial crisis of 2008, the most industrialized countries have moved decisively towards a political-technological turning point that has taken the name Industry 4.0 which today, 11 years after its official introduction, is in full effect. The industry has seen advanced technologies evolve and accelerate such as Cloud Computing, Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Big Data, Digital Twin, Augmented Reality. The point is that this transformation affects not only the industrial world, but also society and human relations. And from this last observation the concept of Industry 5.0 moves. Armando Martin, electronic engineer and science popularizer, already its author Industry 4.0, challenges and opportunities for Made in Italywinner of the National Science Dissemination Award in 2018. We met him.

How was Industry 5.0 born and why is it being talked about since Industry 4.0 has not yet been fully implemented?

Indeed, this is a fairly common objection. We should not see Industry 5.0 as another industrial revolution in the strict sense, rather as a correction of course, an attempt to overcome the limits of Industry 4.0. The key theme is to put the individual, the environment and society as a whole at the center of the new digital transformation inside and outside factories. After all, this need arises from practical reasons. As Industry 4.0 was a response of European industry to the global crisis of 2008, a political-technological plan to modernize factories, so the Industry 5.0 model is fueled by the need to put people back at the center, to make them protagonists, not subordinates of technology nor unprepared to handle it. For different reasons, Japanese institutions noticed this and started talking about it starting in 2016 with the concept of Society 5.0. In the mid-1990s, several Northeast European scholars were the first to speak explicitly about Industry 5.0, emphasizing green issues and the circular economy. In the United States, influential businessmen such as Elon Musk by Tesla and Salesforce’s Mark Benioff sparked a fifth industrial revolution to counter excessive automation and digitization implemented without ethical guidance and social relevance. In 2020 the European Union with the document “Industry 5.0 – Towards a sustainable, people-centred and resilient European industry” offered a clearer direction to this paradigm.

Therefore, the transition to Society 5.0 is fundamental.

While Europe and other industrialized countries have focused on the Industry 4.0 model specifically from a technological and industrial point of view, Japan has deepened the socio-economic aspects, lowering the concept of Society 5.0 on a scale of natural evolution starting from the Neolithic era (Society 1.0) to today. Factors such as high public debt, low birth rates, an increasingly aging population, increasing pollution, the energy issue, inefficient public spending, low economic growth, growing inequalities and low participation of women in the labor market (we are talking about Japan, but not only as it is obvious) have led to the reversal of the terms of the question. Why do we innovate? Just for a simple matter of productivity and GDP growth? The answer is broad, in the sense that it is necessary to accompany this new wave of technological innovation with the construction of an inclusive, environmentally friendly model of society in which machines and humans can work together.

What are the main differences between Industry 4.0 and Industry 5.0?

Global consulting firm Frost & Sullivan identified five key changes in the transition from Industry 4.0 and Industry 5.0: customer experience, hyper-personalization, responsive and distributed supply chain, interactive products, return of work to factories. In particular, Production 4.0 is characterized by mass customization and smart products, while with Industry 5.0, personalization with a “human touch”, creativity and interactive products take center stage. The concept of the factory is also central: smart in 4.0 (smart factory), cooperative in 5.0 (collaborative industry). Then there is the issue of training and work organization: the remote component is strong in both models, but in 5.0 the human presence takes on enhanced value. The energy scenario, which is arguably more oriented towards bio-economic models, renewable energy sources and energy efficiency with Industry 5.0, should not be ignored.

What technologies form the basis of Industry 5.0?

The enabling technologies are essentially the same as those of Industry 4.0 (IoT, Cloud, Big Data, Additive Manufacturing, Augmented Reality, Digital Twin, etc.), although Artificial Intelligence, Collaborative Robotics and Human-Machine Interface more characteristic of the 5.0 model. But so-called transition technologies play a key role in the transition from 4.0 to 5.0. It is mainly based on machine learning and software engineering (cognitive agent systems, semantic web, autonomous intelligence) and partially based on the convergence of interdisciplinary topics (evergetics, problem solving, game theory, learning strategies). These sectors are the most scientifically interesting part of Industry 5.0 and should be the accelerators of this technological transition, even if it is now too early to assess their full potential, especially in a socio-economic context characterized by many uncertainties.

Are there applications and development scenarios that we can really touch?

I would say yes even if we don’t explicitly or always talk about Industry 5.0. Business cases where collaborative robotics, intelligent machines, energy efficiency and the central role of humans come together in a tangible reality are also examples of Industry 5.0 application. For example, the multinational Abb talks about this for its lighthouse plants in Frosinone, Dalmine and Santa Palomba. Or the emerging company Veneto Automationware, which has created an absolutely cutting-edge collaborative robotics platform for the production of its electric actuators. The collaboration between Omron and Oracle to integrate robotics, cloud systems and supply chain also provides an interesting interpretation of the human-machine union. In general, in all cases where the spread of digitization and intelligent machines redefines the intervention and value of humans in production processes, we can speak of Industry 5.0.

Can Industry 5.0 be a concrete answer to managing global emergencies and crises?

For sure. In general, it should be noted that Industry 5.0 has been shaped to confirm the example of a society that, taking advantage of new technologies, is able to better respond to the challenges of its time, such as environmental protection and the preservation of natural and cultural heritage and infrastructure. In fact, Industry 5.0 is not enough to use the enabling technologies already present in Industry 4.0, but it is ready to use them with respect for people and the environment. In this sense, strong reference is made to the “pillar” of resilience, i.e. the ability to react to sudden changes, even traumatic ones, without lasting consequences. Production 5.0, for example, should guarantee high levels of business continuity and disaster recovery. In short, it must have adaptable production capacity and flexible business processes, capable of providing products and services even in the event of pandemics, natural disasters, geopolitical tensions, economic crises.

(edited by Mario Gargantini)


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