Industry 5.0 is about minds, not just machines and this is promising

Talking about Industry 5.0 when many manufacturing sectors are still figuring out how to take advantage of the emerging technologies linked to the fourth industrial revolution, aka Industry 4.0, might make you frown or think it’s a marketing stunt. But, it adds up an indispensable layer to the digital transformation we’re going through as it recognizes that it will only succeed if it has people at the center and fosters sustainability and resilience. And yet, the question is: are we ready to tap the human factor in the equation?

The term was coined a decade ago to describe how connecting different solutions such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, the internet of things (IoT), virtual reality, digital twins or robotics could help us transform how we make things. However, in 2020, a report from KPMG highlighted that of all emerging technologies strongly associated with Industry 4.0 only cloud computing had an advanced level of implementation.

It’s clear that things have evolved since 2020 ⎼and the pandemic has brought some lessons. But limited understanding of digital transformation priorities and the justification for related expenses have hampered the revolution’s progress.

So, in 2021, in an attempt to build forward better while addressing the climate emergency, the European Union defined the next stage of the industrial revolution: Industry 5.0. At its core, the concept emphasizes the importance of putting people first, thus prioritizing human well-being and skills development alongside technological advances.

In fact, the ultimate goal is to ensure humans and machines work collaboratively, with technology augmenting human capabilities rather than replacing them. And this is good news as since AI has become more advanced, many people have developed anxieties over its potential to make human skills and jobs obsolete. Actually, according to Gallup, 22% of US workers are feeling the Fear of Obsolescence, which has been dubbed FOBO.

“Training and adapting work skills to new technologies, such as robotics and artificial intelligence will be key to empower workers and improve their working conditions and well-being”, says Jordi Palmiola, responsible for Industry 4.0 at the Catalan technology center Eurecat.

Beyond efficiency

On the other hand, Industry 5.0 goes beyond just efficiency; it also has a strong focus on achieving sustainability and resource efficiency. This translates to reducing the environmental impact of manufacturing processes. A key goal is to decouple economic growth from resource depletion, ultimately establishing a circular economy.

The EU’s recent adoption of the “right-to-repair” rules exemplifies this focus perfectly. These rules aim to incentivize both consumers and businesses to repair broken devices instead of discarding them.

In this sense, Sebastián Trolli, Research Manager and Global Head of Industrial Automation at Frost & Sullivan, who will speak about Sustainable Automation as a Catalyst for Climate Action at the IOT Solutions World Congress (IOTSWC) 2024, considers that companies should set as a priority “adopting the 6Rs circular approach (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Recover, Redesign, and Remanufacture) and integrate green technologies into their industrial operations, such as green hydrogen, renewable energy sources, additive manufacturing, and bio-based materials”. He also finds fundamental to “develop resilient supply chains, adaptable production processes, and flexible business practices to address vulnerabilities from the factory floor to the enterprise”.

Yet it’s clear that moving from digital transformation to an Industry 5.0 footing is no easy feat. The journey will necessitate careful as it requires companies to “constantly innovate”, insists Palmiola.

This is the reason Trolli recommends “establishing global partnerships and sharing innovations and sustainability practices across borders” to speed up the adoption of sustainable industrial practices worldwide.

He also highlights the need for “rethinking business models to align with environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices, prioritizing long-term sustainability goals over short-term profitability”, as well as staying ahead of “environmental regulations” and actively participating in the creation of policies that promote sustainable development.

This may sound overwhelming but the IOTSWC, to be held 21-23 May, is just around the corner to help companies prioritize to meet the demands of the next industrial revolution and build a better future.

Article by: Anna Solana

Pedro Mier

Pedro Mier holds a degree in Telecommunications Engineer ing from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, MBA from ESADE and PADE from IESE. He is currently President of AMETIC (Association of Electronics, Information Technology and Telecommunications Companies of Spain), Shareholder and Chairman of the Board of Directors of TRYO Aerospace & Electronics, Board Member of the Premo Group and Committee of CTTC. member of Space Angels Network and Member of the Sc ientific Advisory