Technological innovation will power the Italian sustainability drive

The National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR), approved last April by the Italian Parliament as part of the Next Generation EU (NGEU), promotes the country’s digital transformation and supports innovation as part of the national economic system. To this end, it provides incentives for adopting innovative technologies and digital skills in the private sector: this will help ensure that technological innovation and Industry 4.0 play a growing role in the short-term plans of Italian companies.

Alongside business outcomes, the second Mission of the PNRR focuses on the Green Revolution and Ecological Transition, putting sustainability at the center of companies’ post-pandemic recovery plans.

The government has appointed Roberto Cingolani, a physicist majoring in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI), to head its ecological transition department. The unit will deal with environmental issues such as transport emissions, sustainable development and creating a circular economy. It will also address how technology can be introduced to solve pressing issues such as air pollution from energy and heating, transportation, and industrial waste treatment and disposal programs.

Italy is carving out its path to net zero – but there is still some way to go. Digital transformation is fundamental, and it cannot be achieved in a silo. Enterprises need to work closely with their partners to build a sustainable future and explore new business models, such as “servitization.”

Servitization is described as “the innovation of an organization’s capabilities and processes to deliver services rather than products alone,” explains Eleanor Musson, Senior Partnerships Manager, The Advanced Services Group, Aston University, in a recent report.

Industry 4.0 and sustainable innovation

Italy is the second-largest manufacturer in the EU and is a pathfinder in the ongoing digitalization and automation of traditional manufacturing. Industry 4.0 will be a significant contributor to Italy’s sustainability goals.

Industry 4.0 delivers smart manufacturing by linking physical production lines and operations with connected devices, AI and machine learning (ML) to create a joined-up ecosystem. It is focused on both manufacturing processes and supply-chain management. This approach offers the opportunity to better link technology, skills and resources to enhance sustainability by leveraging greater efficiencies to reduce environmental impact.

Italy is ahead of the curve thanks to a 2017 initiative by the government to incentivize companies to transition to digitized factories. According to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, this initiative has allowed the country to become one of the world’s largest exporters of vehicle parts.

The engineering industry is also benefiting from Industry 4.0. For example, Rold, which makes locking mechanisms for dishwashers and washing machines, has increased turnover by 8% through this transition. It uses rapid prototyping and digital dashboards to improve efficiencies and sustainability.

Industry 4.0’s benefits have started to cascade into other sectors such as utilities. This is already happening in Milan, which recently set up L’INNESTO, a zero-carbon social housing project designed to show off the city’s sustainability strategies. It includes sustainable water-resource management, electric car charging terminals and shared neighborhood car fleets.

Reducing fashion’s environmental impact

For Italy’s fashion industry, reducing environmental impact is high on the agenda. Fashion houses are looking to establish a more sustainable and environmentally responsible approach.

Gucci, for example, opened the Gucci Art Lab in Florence, a product testing and development center to test everything from materials to packaging, including their green credentials. It aims to bring the Gucci supply chain closer to its roots and give the luxury brand greater control over its product development and sustainability.

Technology and the environment are central to La Pina Veste’s core values. The Roman sustainable fashion brand creates cutting-edge garments from recycled products, including ECONYL made from nylon waste, and is looking at more energy-efficient manufacturing techniques.

Consumers are driving green change

Sustainability is also increasingly crucial to Italian consumers, with 86% believing that more needs to be done to address climate change. With consumers demanding an ethical approach that incorporates net-zero carbon emissions targets, several major technology companies have promised to get there by 2050.

According to a recent study, 78% of enterprises believe sustainability has become a primary way to drive product or service innovation. At Orange Business Services, we are helping companies to become more sustainable and deploy Industry 4.0. This includes reimagining their production lines and supply chains with real-time intelligence and smart digital solutions, while bridging the gap between IT and OT systems to create a connected supplier ecosystem.

Industry 4.0 is not limited to connecting industrial sites. Embedding connectivity within a manufactured product can enhance efficiencies and the customer experience. De Jong DUKE, a family-owned coffee company, uses Orange Business Services as its sole IoT connectivity provider to connect its smart coffee machines globally. Using the connected IoT coffee machines, customers are able to remotely monitor status, including cleaning cycles and number of coffees sold. It also ensures higher uptime due to proactive maintenance. If an error occurs on a connected coffee machine or it is starting to run out of coffee, the customer is alerted.

To support our net-zero goal, we have also launched The Green Act program, created to accelerate the digital decarbonization of Orange Business Services and our customers through various services. For example, half of the network equipment we install is reconditioned. The program also sets targets to reduce CO2 emissions by 30%, use 50% of electricity generated from renewable sources, and collect 30% of used mobile devices – all by 2025.

Working together for a sustainable future

New and exciting technologies are coming down the pipe in terms of AI, robotics and automation to advance Industry 4.0 and support a sustainable future, but enterprises can’t work in a vacuum. We must all work together to support each other in an industrial transformation, the scale of which has never been seen before, if we are to maintain our earth’s ecosystem for the future.

Learn more about how Orange Business Services can help you on your journey to Industry 4.0 and our Green Act program.

Francesca Puggioni
Francesca Puggioni

Francesca Puggioni is the Managing Director of Orange Business Services for Southern Europe. With an extensive international business background, she is a champion of cultural diversity in the workplace to inspire creativity and drive innovation and favors a dynamic and innovative management model. She is a great supporter of socially responsible initiatives, especially where technology can have a positive impact on society as a tool for social, economic and environmental development.