The Observatory's Great Debates - Plants: A rapidly changing concentrate of technology

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Paris, 27 December 2013 - At the Observatory's Great Debates, held on Friday 13 December in Paris, experts from various fields presented their vision of the topic "Plants of the future: a risk or an opportunity?". One consensus has emerged: now more than ever, fast changing plants are a concentrate of richness and intelligence and the source of major innovations.

The conclusions reached at the event will serve as further inputs for Fives' work with its Observatory for the plants of the future, an initiative that aims to create a positive dynamic for the industry of tomorrow.

Debates rich in expertise and varied points of view

For the Observatory's first Great Debates, two round table discussions brought together speakers from very different backgrounds (manufacturers, economists, sociologists, researchers, etc.) to discuss issues such as People and plants: a subjective relationship? and Mobile plants, plant kits, 3D printing: what will the plants of tomorrow look like?

In the wings of the two round table sessions, Pierre Gattaz, President of the MEDEF (French employers' confederation) and Luc Ferry, writer, philosopher and former French Minister for Youth, National Education and Research, shed light on the obstacles currently hindering innovation and the need for stimulating a climate of risk-taking, as innovation has become a vital challenge in a globalized economy.

Plants being reinvented for more innovation

Opening borders, globalization and digital technologies have led to dramatic shifts in manufacturing, which must also address environmental and social constraints. In this context, the plant of tomorrow will need to be flexible, more ergonomic, more open to its environment, be at the heart of flows between suppliers and customers, more connected and well integrated into local networks. In order to meet these new requirements, it will take on board new technologies that complement existing manufacturing processes and revolutionize work and production methods, such as 'additive manufacturing' (3D printing) or the densification of the digital production line.

As a consequence of this revolution, the skills required and people's roles in plants are also undergoing profound changes, with the emergence of new tasks and new trades, which can be a source of anxiety for its stakeholders.

Yet plants are a concentration of huge intelligence and bring together diverse and varied skill sets, with workers relieved of the most laborious tasks, who will remain at the heart of the plant of tomorrow. Professional training must come to facilitate this evolution towards new businesses and skills. Admittedly, the general public is unfamiliar with plants, and what they do know depends essentially on the stereotypes of days gone by. However, industry - and its constant stream of innovations - lies behind numerous objects that will still revolutionize our daily lives.

The Fives Observatory for the plants of the future, a positive view of the industry of tomorrow

Fives, an industrial engineering group deeply involved in the major challenges facing industry today, launched its Observatory for the plants of the future in 2012. It aims to stimulate debate about the industry of tomorrow and define what it might look like.

Part of the approach is to hold regular events to bring together the general public and experts. It has already organized:

  • A survey comparing French, Chinese and American perceptions of plants and industry.
  • Interviews with specialists, experts on industrial issues, economists, academics, manufacturers and leaders of associations.
  • A citizen conference that gave rise to a public debate and resulted in a charter of recommendations for conditions for accepting the installation of an industrial site near home.

The 'Great Debates' held on Friday 13 December 2013, a time for exchanges, testimonies and debate, were a new highlight in this cycle of events.

The conclusions drawn from these first initiatives have been collated and put into perspective in the first edition of the Fives Observatory Review of plants of the future, which can be read on