Industry 4.0 in Brazil: more digital, but with lower maturity

Seven out of ten companies in Brazil use at least one digital technology. The result was in the Special Survey of Industry 4.0: Five Years Later, launched by the National Confederation of Industry (CNI) in April 2022. In 2016, when this survey was first conducted, the rate was just under half (48%).

We live in the so-called Industry 4.0, a new stage of technological development characterized by the progress and integration of major technological innovations in the areas of automation, control and information technology applied to manufacturing processes. By integrating different technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, and cloud computing, production processes tend to become more efficient, independent and customizable.

The research examined 18 types of digital technologies, such as automation (with and without sensors), integrated systems for product manufacturing, 3D printing, AI-assisted production, and analysis of project virtual models.

Despite the increase in adoption of at least one digital technology, most companies use a small amount and variety of digital technologies. According to the report, this is an indication of low maturity as among the industrial companies interviewed, 26% use 1-3 technologies and only 7% use 10 or more.

Low maturity concerns not only the quantity of technologies, but also their diversity. The research shows that digital technologies focused on improving the production process are still the most widely used, and that there has also been an increase, in the past five years, in solutions that allow for greater product customization. However, technologies that are considered more complex, such as those involving artificial intelligence and machine learning, are still not used by companies.

The CNI survey also shows that the size of a company correlates with its level of adoption of digital technologies. The larger the organization, the more use of at least one digital technology. Among large companies, 86% use at least one of the 18 indexed technologies. Among medium businesses, adoption drops to 64%, and among small businesses, to 42%.

High implementation costs (66%), company structure and culture (26%), lack of clarity about return on investment (25%), lack of technical knowledge (25%) and difficulty in integrating new technologies and software are among the main obstacles reported by managers to implement digital technologies. (18%).

Brazil is still lagging behind in adopting new technologies, and delays can be costly (Photo: Katerina Babayeva/Pixels)

The lack of qualified labor was the most cited external constraint for the company (37%). Then there is the difficulty in identifying technologies and partners (33%), the fact that customers and suppliers are not yet ready to establish them (29%), as well as the lack of suitable financing lines (20%).

Among the main benefits recognized by the industry by adopting digital technologies are increased productivity (72%), improved quality of products or services (61%) and lower production costs (60%).

Industry 4.0 and social transformation through sustainability

It is important to stress that the low technological maturity of the industrial sector does not only impede the progress of production or increase financial gains.

The effects of Industry 4.0 go much further, and the adoption of new technologies can make production more efficient, reduce the use of natural resources, waste generation and energy consumption, according to the article “The Effects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” from Fundação Getúlio Vargas.

There are already examples of organizations implementing digital solutions to ensure a sustainable production chain. This is the case of Walmart, which monitors the chain of pork produced in China using the blockchain and the Provurance platform, which uses new technologies to make production chains more transparent, for example, by avoiding buying tuna caught by workers in a situation similar to slavery.

Given this scenario, although it is a concept that is still being standardized, it is urgently necessary to work to ensure and expand the technological maturity of Brazilian industries. Undoubtedly, this measure will increase the competitiveness and performance of organizations, which is essential in the economic context of the next decade. But the effect does not end there. Facing the realization that our future will depend on the collective ability to reduce the impact of human action on the environment, the contribution of technologies to industry becomes more important to building a sustainable economy and places social development as its main objective.

* Article produced by a columnist exclusively for Canaltech. The text may contain opinions and analyzes that do not necessarily reflect Canaltech’s view on this matter.

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