Of the 24 sectors of the Brazilian industry, 14 must take a technological leap to adapt to what has been termed by companies and international agencies as “Industry 4.0.” The assessment can be found in a survey recently published by the National Confederation of Industry (CNI).
The research considered productivity, exports, imports, and innovation in several of Brazil's industrial segments and compared them to the situation in the globe's 30 biggest economies in order to gauge the conditions facing Brazilian companies in both foreign and domestic markets.
The term “Industry 4.0” came into use in recent years in reference to the integration of several types of technology in the production process, including the internet of things, big data (the large-scale collection and processing of data), 3D printing, advanced robotics, and artificial intelligence.
The implementation of such technology is said to come as part of a new form of industrial organization, which stems from a number of deep transformations undergone by markets—“the fourth industrial revolution,” as dubbed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and other international forums. The concept has also been launched in Europe in a bid to boost productivity without reducing costs linked to the labor force and to the preservation of competitiveness taking into account the rise of new powers, like China.
Still a long way to go
The survey indicates that the Brazilian industry in the sectors of printing and reproduction, pharmachemicals and pharmaceuticals, chemicals, non-metallic minerals, leather and footwear, clothing and accessories, textile, machinery and electronic devices, transport equipment, metal products, machinery and equipment, furniture, rubber and plastic articles, and miscellanea are still far from the threshold.
In terms of productivity, the segments reported above the average among the countries considered were those of mining, oil byproducts and biofuels, metalworking, and tobacco. Taking into consideration the innovation rate, a higher-than-average performance is observed for mining, food and furniture industries.
The study also highlights that this upgrade takes different shapes in different segments, but adds that the phenomenon has become a reality and that every sector must adapt in order to be level with standards in both external and internal markets.
Obstacles and quick changes
“The quick dissemination of the technology bringing about this revolution indicates that the advent and consolidation of Industry 4.0 will also take place faster than previous cases. Brazil's potential as a global competitor will depend, therefore, on our ability to implement this change,” the research study argues.
The need for a technological leap, the study shows, stems mainly from the decline in the productivity of domestic industry for ten consecutive years up to 2014 in the comparison with other countries. This issue, coupled with innovation challenges, draws Brazil further away from the richest economies around the globe.
CNI Executive-Director for Industrial Policy João Emílio Gonçalves mentions the role of these changes across industries of all sectors. “These changes are strategic for companies facing low competitiveness on the global stage and for those that have already found their place, as this process is occurring in other countries. If you're competitive today, you might not be tomorrow,” he warns.
As an example of the obstacles in adapting to Industry 4.0 standards, Gonçalves names the fact that the companies are still not familiar with the concept. “No one knew what it was three years ago. We've been working to show it's not fiction; it's a phenomenon that's starting to happen and makes sense throughout the world and also for Brazil, in its search for a place in the market,” he argues.
In his view, the companies interested in adapting to the new paradigm must seek to assess the technological and integration challenges in production. “This requires investment in modernization, personnel training, technological adaptation, etc.”
A concept from overseas
Ricardo Antunes, Sociology Professor at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp) and the author of books on changes in labor, argues that the notion of Industry 4.0 was shaped within the reality of the world's wealthiest economies, like Germany's, and cannot be brought over to nations in the so-called “Global South,” which have no prominent position in the market when it comes to state-of-the-art technology.
“In countries like Brazil and India, if you make progress in the digital arena with no social regulation and without the enforcement of social rights, you get more precarious working conditions, which creates a huge gap between advanced, small sectors of the industry—boasting European standards—and a polluting industrial area with degrading conditions, like mining and agribusiness,” he says.
Other risks, Antunes goes on to say, include the reduction of job posts due to robotics, and the deterioration of working quality. “There's been a process where the line dividing private life and work life has become increasingly finer, as workers go home and have to remain available for work, meeting targets and coping with an ever increasing workload,” he states.
Translated by Fabrício Ferreira