From his office in Brussels, Ulrich Adam, the Secretary General of CEMA (European Agricultural Machinery Association, www.cema-agri.org) looks with interest at the Factories of the Future PPP.
“Efficiency in manufacturing processes is a precondition for competitiveness in the international arena and this specially affects our sector. Why? A substantial portion of European products are exported to other areas of the world where agricultural mechanisation is progressing fast. With comparatively high labour costs, the EU has to find new ways to keep its industrial production going. This calls for more automated, higher precision systems, and of course for effective strategies in keeping process costs under control, such as energy or resources consumption, for instance”.
But the needs of the agricultural machinery producers go beyond the simple optimisation of processes.
“When you think about agricultural machinery, the first thing that comes to mind is probably a tractor. But a modern-day tractor has little in common with its 20th-century predecessors. Today, tractors are highly complex machines that embed a large range of technologies and devices. Our products are growing in complexity and they also need developments in connectivity, especially if we want to make the precision farming paradigm a reality. One of the problems with complex products is that it is still very costly to produce them, which somehow hinders entry in markets where cost is a critical factor. Research areas that look for instance at mass customisation could be very interesting for us. And finally, research that combines production processes with materials looks very promising. Novel composites might actually enable new lightweight components, which has implications both on manufacturing and on performance, including emissions, of the final products”.