The pandemic surged the global supply chain in a way that severely crippled it well into 2022, and now this phenomenon is only exacerbated by the inflation that is being witnessed worldwide. Consumer demand is waxing but supply is waning, and in Europe, a resource shortage crisis is creating a conundrum for manufacturers.

With manufacturers currently expected to materialize products at unprecedented volume and speed, the rapid adoption of technological tools will be a given. The insight that Artificial Intelligence (AI) can provide, in particular, will be a much-needed leg up for the sector that remains the engine of industry. In fact, in Deloitte’s survey of AI Adoption in Manufacturing, it is reported that the market size of AI in the manufacturing sector is expected to exceed €2 billion by 2025, posting an average annual growth of more than 40% from 2019. 

With more informed manufacturing thanks to AI, the potential for better efficiency, resource savings, and improved functionality in operations can occur. 

One initiative that is helping to fuel this shift to smart manufacturing is SHOP4CF, which stands for Smart Human Oriented Platform for Connected Factories. The programme is an eight-month incubator and is an EU-funded project within the eighth framework program Horizon 2020. 

SHOP4CF is currently seeking companies that provide solutions in deploying human-centric AI industrial applications to construct better infrastructure in the EU’s manufacturing sector. The aim is to help eliminate monotonous and laborious work through the power of automation, while also improving the efficiency and well-being of workers. Let’s take a closer look at how SHOP4CF will help EU manufacturers step up despite the current resource crisis.

A Need for Modern Manufacturing

The physical activities performed in manufacturing, such as operating machinery, represent one-third of the workers’ overall time. A Mckinsey report found that 59% of these manufacturing activities that fall within a “predictable operating environment” could be automated, given technical considerations.  

These types of activities are often monotonous and unstimulating for workers on the shop floor, a talent pool that could be utilized in other, more valuable ways. Embedded intelligence can automate processes that help to eliminate up to 25% of execution times, allowing AI to provide solutions that leverage factory workers more synergistically and helps industrial manufacturing to graduate to the next level.

The SHOP4CF initiative is on a mission to ensure that people are not replaced by automated processes but rather can gain new relevance through the usage of their unique capabilities. 

Image Credit: SHOP4CF

The programme recently launched its third open call for companies, offering €1.2M in equity-free funding to EU-based manufacturing companies, system integrators, and developers. The current open call is aimed at successful use cases that can demonstrate an ability to increase human productivity through smart assistance technology on the shop floor.

Specifically, the program seeks to support new modular software components (with optional hardware) that have a positive impact on human work in the manufacturing sector. For any European companies who think they may qualify, SHOP4CF has created this set of questions as a guideline for potential applicants who wish to submit their use-cases:

  • Which are the most relevant workers or worker groups that are affected by the use-case implementation?
  • What is the main relevant human-related issue to be solved or improved?
  • What kind of human-technology interaction does the use-case introduce?
  • How will the use case improve the competitive position of the organization?

Unlocking the power of AI, the global smart manufacturing market size is expected to reach a valuation of over €7 billion by 2030. SHOP4CF is ensuring that stakeholders in the manufacturing industry can adopt evolving technologies sustainably, helping to create a new modern manufacturing era. 

Patching Symptomatic Disparities 

SHOP4CF is led by a consortium of partners, including the ISDI Accelerator, the venture acceleration program from ISDI, the largest business technology, and digital transformation school in Spain. ISDI Accelerator provides resources for the programme, channeling the entrepreneurial interests of its students to boost and professionalize efforts and ideas generated within the incubator. Other partners include Siemens, FundingBox, The Danish Technological Institute, and others.  

SHOP4CF is currently accepting applications seeking to solve real challenges in the industrial environment and improve human safety and well-being in manufacturing. For candidates that seek to establish new, innovative, and human-centric approaches to repetitive industrial processes, the call will remain open until October 31st. Interested companies can read more details and apply through the SHOP4CF website:

Successful applicants for SHOP4CF will receive eight months of support and mentorship, technology training, business and funding coaching, and a lump-sum cheque for up to €100,000. Encouraging the development and implementation of solutions in industrial operations for 2022’s demand, the programme has already incubated 19 successful use cases in its first two open calls. 

With AI embedded into factories to inform ground-level decisions—efficiency across all operations can be increased while also increasing employee satisfaction. This will help to conserve resources during the current supply drought being seen in the EU and help to retain what might be arguably the most important resource, which is the workers that make manufacturing possible.