“ROBOTICS AND AI IN LOGISTICS” CONFERENCE

Nov 30, 2017 by FEDIL in  Events News

Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are changing the Logistics Landscape and the Cluster for Logistics Luxembourg (C4L) organised a conference dedicated to the current and upcoming trends. 140 guests from various sectors took part in the conference held on November 21st 2017 at the Chamber of Commerce and were eager to meet a panel of experts. 

The Cluster partnered with the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals Benelux (CSCMP) to assemble an international panel of speakers and invited Minister of Labour, Mr Nicolas Schmit to share the government’s view on the subject. The Conference and networking lunch was made possible with the help of the Sponsors Kuehne + Nagel, EY Luxembourg, Amova as well as FANUC and with the support of  the Chamber of Commerce and Digital for Industry (D4I).

Artificial intelligence, robotics and Industry 4.0 are more than just buzzwords. These will impact logistics processes and services deeply and transform the way people work. Minister Nicolas Schmit was delighted to see students from the Lycée des Garçons and students from the new Luxembourg Centre for Logistics and MIT Master in Logistics and Supply Chain Management Course as schools and universities have to prepare the next working generations to the challenges of tomorrow – to jobs we do not foresee yet. This will deeply affect the way people work and schools will have to teach children to adapt to changing conditions. “We have to be ready for the change and those who try to slow down change will be the losers” as the changes will have positive aspects.

The Minister of Labour, Employment and Immigration does not believe that this technological revolution will be completely different than those in the past: “Not all jobs can be saved but we have to confront the transformation”. While some tasks will disappear, new ones will be created. In order to support this change, the ministry of Labour is developing a pilot project in the domain of re- und upskilling to encourage firms to anticipate technological change and confront the skills gaps which arise.

“If we can show, both as public and private decision-makers that this technological transformation can be managed in an inclusive way, we will be able to tame some of the fears currently haunting the public debate,” said Mr Schmit. This transformation of work with humans and cooperative robots (or co-bots) can also help to generate better working conditions.

As a strategic sector in terms of GDP and employment, logistics is meant to play a central role of diversification in Luxembourg. The Minister ensured the commitment of the government to its partnership and good cooperation with the logistics sector. “It is a cooperation, which becomes even more important in these times of uncertainty and great technological transformation.”

For Carlo Thelen, Director general of the Chamber of Commerce and President of the Cluster for Logistics, the trend cannot be ignored. “The forecasted aging and decrease of population makes robotics and automatization a must!” Already some sectors suffer from a lack of workforce – having self-learning robots work hand in hand with employees can compensate employment mismatch and enhance productivity.

Innovation will drive job creation and skills requirements in a new and yet unknown way. “A.I. will probably change employment opportunities for white collar rather than blue collar professions, by a need for highly trained professionals in business and technology. Blue collar professions will need to learn to work “hand-in-hand” with robots and co-bots and we need to try to address any legal or job-related concerns.”

The digital transformation can support the sector to grow even further. This year has seen important changes in the transport infrastructure or back-bone tissue of logistics with the inauguration of a 46 000 sm of modern warehouse by Kuehne + Nagel. Japans leading robots and industrial automatization company Fanuc with European headquarters in Echternach occupies its European value-adding distribution and customisation Centre and we are proud that they decided to move from the Netherlands to Contern to increase efficiency. This will be a highlight of next week’s official economic mission to Japan, said Mr Thelen. He added that “new infrastructure at the multimodal hub of CFL in Bettembourg was inaugurated in July and we continuously see new contracts with shippers to be announced in the Dudelange logistics park.  The airport is working on an expansion of warehouses and parking lots for large planes and will probably exceed 900,000 tons in 2017.”

AI and Robots cannot be dissociated

Robotics and Artificial Intelligence are directly connected. Beyond the mere programming of actions, modern robots now see, learn and interact among each other and humans. Paul Ribus, General Manager of FANUC Benelux presented the next steps in robotization: “First we gave them eyes to see, then we gave them brains to learn and finally we gave them a network to exchange their experience”. The fast learning aspect is key in modern robotics. Instead of following programmed actions, they are capable of learning from their mistakes and share their experience to learn even faster.

Andrea Scammacca, Head of European Supply Chain FANUC Europe gave an overview of the implementation of the FANUC Central Logistic Hub and Product Customization centre in Contern. In new warehouse of Kuehne + Nagel, the company prepares the robots for delivery to clients.

AI is in everybody’s mind because everyone is afraid a competitor may be the first to implement new processes, says Thorsten Schröer, Director IBM Industrial Service. Mr Schröer gave an overview of IBM Watson, the company AI platform for businesses, which is capable of learning and spreading the knowledge among a network of robots. The robots now learn from their mistakes and improve processes.

The fear that intelligent robots will replace humans exists for over 60 years now, says Thorsten Schröer. Until now the tools did not exist, but thanks to modern computing power, the pace has accelerated. The capacity of modern robots – which can carry, identify production or even jump like athletes may look like “Star Wars” but they are reality now. Processes like quality control can be transferred to robots with special sensors. Human eyes are not made to stare for hours to detect production mistakes, says Mr Schröer. Self-driving buses with IBM technology are already being tested in Berlin and Las Vegas. Their advantage compared to humans: they don’t get tired or do not text during driving.

Robots are mastering “Deep Learning” to support humans in processes says Robert ten Have, CEO of Fizyr. The company is a previous winner of the Amazon Picking Challenge, and a pioneer in Deep Learning machine vision to use robots for order picking and parcel handling. Fizyr has applied deep learning to enable robots to cope with boxes, cylinders, bags, etc. Robots are able to pick and stack standardized things much faster than humans. Varied bodies however are more complicated. “Order picking and parcel handling is still done manually because until recently robots could not handle unknown parcels”, says Mr ten Have. By trial and error, artificial intelligence enables robots to learn how to pick irregular shapes. Specialized order picking applications will transform warehousing and postal services. Modern identification sensors enable a even better more regular quality control than humans can achieve over a long time.

A virtual workforce to allow more value added services

Software robots can free up time to work on value added services. A.I. doesn’t always involve a complicated implementation in the existing ICT infrastructure, according to Ajay Bali, Director Ernst & Young Advisory Services. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) creates a layer on top of the existing ICT framework. It works in the background, streamlining repetitive processes like data entry, leaving more time for employees to work on value adding activities. “It is like a virtual workforce but its use varies with activities and companies. And how you implement is very important”, warns Mr Bali.

Human interaction should not be forgotten to survive this “tidal wave of technology”, says Jeroen Bolt, chairman of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals Benelux and partner of this conference. CSCMP is a US based network that connects 8,000 Supply Chain Specialists all over the world. The next German CSCMP roundtable in Munich on Nov 30th will give an in-depth overview of Blockchain Technology in Supply Chains.

Tom Leys, Head of Logistics Engineering BeLux Kuehne + Nagel, joined the panel with the speakers to face the questions of the public. The panel acknowledged that robots will be able to support humans positively in many tasks. In regard of sustainability, automated driving or supply chain management should produce less CO2 emissions as computers will be more efficient than humans to optimize transportation. Considering shift work it might be possible to enhance work-life balance in warehouse management, said Mr Leys as an example.

“Collaboration is key even with co-bots”, says the Cluster Manager Malik Zeniti who gave an overview of the Cluster’s activities. He invited companies to join the Supply Chain Day on April 19th 2018 organised in cooperation with the Bundesvereinigung Logistik (BVL). During this open-door day, logistics and industry companies can present their activities to the greater public.

Conference presentations are available here.

Lancement du programme de digitalisation des PME

Jan 23, 2018

En date du 18 janvier 2018, le ministère de l’Économie, la Chambre des métiers, la Chambre de commerce et l’agence nationale de promotion de l’innovation Luxinnovation ont présenté un programme de digitalisation des PME destiné à faire progresser la transition digitale au sein des petites et moyennes entreprises et à leur permettre d’utiliser au mieux les possibilités offertes par le numérique. S’adressant aux PME relevant des secteurs du commerce, de l’industrie, de l’artisanat et de l’horeca, l’assistance apportée aux entreprises comprend plusieurs étapes : la sensibilisation et l’information quant aux enjeux de la digitalisation, un diagnostic professionnel de l’entreprise avec formulation de recommandations, ainsi qu’un accompagnement lors de la mise en œuvre des solutions proposées.

Au sein de ce programme, la Chambre des métiers avec son service “eHandwierk” et la Chambre de commerce avec son équipe “Go Digital” proposent chacune une initiative adaptée aux besoins de leurs ressortissants pour sensibiliser les entreprises aux défis de la digitalisation et pour les informer, les orienter et les conseiller dans leurs démarches en ce sens. La phase de diagnostic par un expert ainsi que la phase subséquente de mise en œuvre sont proposées en collaboration avec Luxinnovation. Lors de ces deux étapes, les chambres professionnelles s’appuient sur l’offre de services “Fit 4 Digital” développée par Luxinnovation pour aider les PME à tirer avantage des technologies numériques.

Lors de leur processus de digitalisation, les entreprises peuvent bénéficier de différentes aides financières de la part du ministère de l’Économie, notamment de la prise en charge des frais du diagnostic à hauteur de 5.000 euros. Une fiche d’information portant sur l’assistance et les aides à la digitalisation dont peuvent bénéficier les PME est consultable sur Guichet.lu.

Lors de la conférence de presse, la secrétaire d’État à l’Économie, Francine Closener, a précisé: “Je me réjouis de la collaboration fructueuse avec nos partenaires institutionnels et avec Luxinnovation. S’inscrivant dans la démarche Rifkin, ce programme de digitalisation pour les PME est la transposition concrète du Pakt PRO Artisanat et du Pakt PRO Commerce.”

Le directeur de la Chambre de commerce, Carlo Thelen, a dit: “Avec le parcours Go Digital, la Chambre de commerce et la House of Entrepreneurship offrent aux TPE, PME et PMI qui souhaitent réussir leur transition digitale, un accompagnement sur mesure. Nos conseillers rendront personnellement visite à tout entrepreneur intéressé par le programme pour sonder leurs vrais besoins en matière de digitalisation. Les dirigeants d’entreprises de taille réduite ne savent bien souvent pas par où commencer et se posent des questions d’ordre pratique portant, entre autres, sur l’intégration du numérique dans leur quotidien ou sur les coûts liés à la mise en œuvre d’une stratégie de transition numérique.”

Le directeur général de la Chambre des métiers, Tom Wirion, a déclaré: “La mission de la Chambre des métiers consiste à sensibiliser, informer et guider nos entreprises dans leur transformation digitale avec le nouveau service ‘eHandwierk’, dédié à la digitalisation dans l’artisanat. Le secteur de l’artisanat est en train d’évoluer vers la digitalisation. Notre service va permettre aux entreprises du secteur de rester compétitives et de conquérir de nouveaux marchés.”

Jean-Michel Ludwig de Luxinnovation a expliqué: “Fit for Digital permet aux PME d’avoir un regard extérieur neutre sur leur maturité digitale actuelle. Ce programme offre un accompagnement sur-mesure par un expert agréé dans l’identification et l’implémentation de solutions IT porteuses de compétitivité.”

Les événements à venir

Le nouveau programme “Go Digital” de la Chambre de commerce démarre dès aujourd’hui. Le 20 mars 2018, le Digital Day proposera 4 workshops en allemand et en français, des témoignages d’entrepreneurs et des interventions d’experts. Les inscriptions sont désormais ouvertes sur www.godigital.lu.

Le service “eHandwierk” de la Chambre des métiers, opérationnel depuis le 2 janvier 2018, organisera et animera des plateformes d’échanges sous forme de workshops concernant les différentes problématiques autour de la numérisation. Le premier workshop aura lieu le 6 février 2018 et portera sur l’utilisation de smartphones et de tablettes dans le quotidien de l’entreprise.

Industry 4.0, HPC and Big Data – Funding and support opportunities for Luxembourg’s manufacturing industry

Oct 20, 2017

A seminar on Industry 4.0, HPC and Big Data was held at the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce hosted by the Ministry of the Economy, FEDIL and Luxinnovation on October 19, 2017.  A number of speakers offered valuable insight to Luxembourg companies on the European strategy on Digitising Industry and the funding and support opportunities that are available for Luxembourg’s manufacturing industry.  The ball is now in the court of interested companies to make direct contact and find out more.  

MANUFUTURE 2017 – Moving up the value chain

Oct 26, 2017

The international conference, held in Tallinn University of Technology on October 24 & 25, brought together almost 600 leading representatives from industry and academia as well as political figures from all over Europe with the aim of imagining the future of European industry and prioritizing the ways forward form technological development towards the year 2030.