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Automation grows, but Brazil far from industry 4.0

Bnamericas Published: Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Brazilian industry has increased its levels of automation and sensorization, but is still a long way from operating under the industry 4.0 concept, as less than 10% of manufacturers have reached that level, according to estimates from the country's industrial development agency (ABDI).

In March last year, at the World Economic Forum on Latin America, held in São Paulo, ABDI, which is linked to the economy ministry, announced an industry 4.0 strategy to accelerate the process.

The objective presented was fairly timid: to have at least 15% of the country's industries operating under the industry 4.0 concept. At the time, only 5% had achieved that level, ABDI said.

The term industry 4.0, or advanced manufacturing, or the fourth industrial revolution, as it is also known, involves the trend of digitalization, automation and robotics, and use of artificial intelligence and advanced data analysis in manufacturing processes.

After the WEF event, between March 2018 and May 2019 ABDI conducted a new assessment of 214 companies of various sizes in different verticals.

It found that the ones most advanced in implementation of industry 4.0 were large companies in the auto, chemical and electronics industries.

According to the survey, only 6.5% of companies had machines connected for real-time data exchange under the IoT model and integration at all stages of the manufacturing process.

Cybersecurity was present in 15% of these firms, product traceability in 11% and smart products, which transmit information and data, in only 5%.

At the same time as there is a push to advance with automation, industries are struggling to maintain production levels.

Figures from national statistics bureau IBGE show that production of IT, electronics and optics equipment – among those industries cited as being most advanced in industry 4.0 – fell 4.7% between January and July and was down 7.1% in the 12 months ending in July.

TRANSITION

As it aims to ramp up advanced manufacturing, ABDI was caught in the middle of a semi-political crisis which led to a change in its leadership.

On Wednesday, President Jair Bolsonaro fired the head of the agency, Luiz Augusto de Souza Ferreira, after Ferreira accused the economy ministry’s special secretary of productivity employment, Carlos da Costa, of making “non-republican” requests of him, such as paying to rent rooms in São Paulo for the secretariat unnecessarily.

Costa responded that all talks with Ferreira had been “republican” and legal.

Igor Calvet has been named as the new ABDI chief.

At the Latin American WEF Forum in March last year, Ferreira said in reply to a BNamericas question that he was confident in the “continuity” of government policies, including industry 4.0, regardless of changes in government. Bolsonaro was subsequently elected in October.

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