Lectra says its equipment is ready for Industry 4.0 change

Lectra says its equipment is ready for Industry 4.0 change

Smarter and better connected equipment and software, tools that are tailored to individual industries and end-users, and the use of big data to drive efficiency and responsiveness are all part of the new offering planned by technology specialist Lectra as it sets its sights on the Industry 4.0 era.

"What we want to do is really bring our customer to the next level," Daniel Harari, Lectra CEO, told journalists at the launch of the company's new vision in Bordeaux on Friday (7 April). "We have a new strategy for the coming ten years that will enable us to be a very strong company in Industry 4.0."

The event followed plans announced by the company last month to help fashion and apparel companies succeed as they step into the 'Industry 4.0' era – or the fourth industrial revolution – which combines automation with information so that real-time data can be used to improve the overall effectiveness, efficiency and responsiveness of an operation.

Anchored in the digitalisation of industrial processes, from creation to production, a digital value chain in turn provides real-time links between creative teams and product development teams, smart factories, suppliers and consumers to deliver large-scale customised production, as well as quick-to-market, quality products. 

Lectra to guide way into Industry 4.0 era

Lectra says its first focus will address pattern making, boosting the time spent on garment making, optimising fabric consumption, and leveraging the cloud. Asset management is another key area, as the company looks to help customers become "smarter and faster" in their decision-making. As is virtual prototyping, where 3D tools will play an increasingly important role; and a "more flexible and more affordable" PLM solution that will be configurable so one size will not fit all.

Also included in the plans are services for the leather goods market, as well as offer software licensing, and a data intelligence solution to "slice and dice data" to maximise efficiency.

"Data intelligence – it is coming from everywhere," says Mathieu Bonenfant, product line manager at Lectra. "We need to tap into data, all of us. Our software does consume and generate data, but it was not practical to use a few years ago because the technology was not there. It is now, and we believe artificial intelligence is the future. What do you get when you connect this with data? We are looking at what we can do here in the next few years.

"Data is so important, and the companies leveraging this are leading the industry. We see this more and more with Amazon. It is really becoming the focal point of everything, and we will give our customer this to be able to compete."

Connectivity with mobile devices will also be key, Lectra says, as a means of enhancing collaboration and interaction with customers.

"If you have your mobile with you, you will have no disruption between when you're at your desk or on the go," says Bonenfant. "We want to integrate this as part of our offering. Devices are becoming more convenient, and connectivity is improving every day."

Also within its strategy is an 'online university' providing customers with instant access to courses so they can "master our solution by themselves."

Cutting Room 4.0

To address pattern making, the first offering will be Cutting Room 4.0, updating its current solution with a complete workflow for cutting operations that offers a 360-degree view of the whole process.

Connected to ERP, MES and CRM systems, the new platform is customisable, meaning different solutions for different customers. It will also provide data to all involved, from the cutting room operator to the plant manager, "connecting the shop floor with the business objectives of the company; the person who is buying the equipment."

The concept, Lectra says, is about streamlining the cutting process, providing visibility, transferring information, and increasing flexibility in handling fabric machines. Currently being built with a select number of customers, Cutting Room 4.0 is set to be released next year.

"Today you have limits in the cutting room," says Frederic Gaillard, product marketing cutting room director. "If you consider a cutting process, the information is only going one way, so the different processes are not really correlated.

"Today it is really difficult to have real time indicators. You need visibility, to be able to monitor, control and adjust, and continually improve. You have to have 360-degree visibility of what is going on. [Otherwise] it is very difficult to have traceability and understand what went wrong and how to fix it."

Gaillard says manufacturers want to reduce costs, measure, improve and sustain operational performance, and improve processes. Mass customisation, he adds, is also a big trend: nobody wants the same garment.

"They want to automate, simplify and strengthen knowledge. We are going to build different solutions for different industries, for different customers. The solution is also going to scale to the volume you are producing. We are going to create a solution tailored to needs that can grow and evolve with the customer as they are more aware of how they can control and improve."

Evolution

In order for Lectra to meet its goals, the company is continuing to increase its R&D budget, investing 10% of revenues into R&D from 2017 to 2019 – a rise of about 50% between 2016 and 2019.

"We believe this is how we are going to bring to the market the technology for Industry 4.0," adds Harari. "What we want to do is really bring our customer to the next level."

The investment is the result of continuous research that led Lectra to recognise four main trends influencing its customers: millennials, the digitalisation of business, China's evolving economy, and the emergence of Industry 4.0.

Millennials – "They are digital leaders. Most are based in countries such as China and India," Harari explains. "They are always connected and are attracted by personalised services. They want to be different and they are very concerned about quality at a low price. It's the largest generation in our history and it has changed completely the way companies look at their consumers."

Digitalisation – "The main technologies are the cloud, the Internet of Things, augmented reality and everything related to artificial intelligence, and the importance of the mobile. This has changed the way people work...and the basis of this is being able to control data. This means customers need to invent a new business model. If they think they can continue with what they have now, they will lose. It's the difference between winning and losing money."

China – "Around 52% of garments in the world are made in China compared to 5% in Vietnam; there is no second China. The projection five years from now is that it will have 42% of world production. The country is going to change drastically by becoming more of a consumption market and by moving to Industry 4.0 faster than any other countries because its government plan – Made in China 2025 – is very strong. This will give them an advantage over Europe and the US, but it also means opportunities for non-Chinese companies because they will buy more products."

Industry 4.0 – "This is all about changing the industry. The industry is not factories, it is the whole business. It's about industry being connected, sharing information, all along the value chain from design, to productivity, to manufacturing. It's about having intelligent machinery, and this means this flexibility to manufacture just in time and personalise products. It's a new paradigm, it's a complete change."

Harari says Lectra's equipment is ready for Industry 4.0, but admits it will take some time for the company, and the industry as a whole, to adapt fully.

"If companies think they will do it overnight they are wrong. In my opinion, it will take about ten years, with the exception of a few early adopters. The country where I think things have moved the fastest in the last five years is China. In reality, the rest are moving slower than China.

"It's about global manufacturing and the ability to network the whole supply chain. It's a way to manufacture everywhere and connect different factories and development points in different countries. It will be a competitive disadvantage if you don't move."