44: Industry in the Future: UTC an academic partner for enterprise

The ongoing digital transformation of industry is a major societal challenge. For UTC, accompanying a growing number of companies during the changes, the phenomenon represents an increasingly strategic field for studies. This Dossier zooms in on the university’s main activities and on the specific nature of its approach to the industries of the future.

44: Industry in the Future: UTC an academic partner for enterprise

Alfi Technologies: “More added value for our customers”

In order to retrofit the industrial tools Alfi Technologies sells with predictive maintenance algorithms, this group has called upon the expertise of the UTC-Roberval Laboratory. 

The Alfi Technologies Group designs and assembles production lines for construction materials fitted with automated systems. “In order to exist and thrive in this market, and to preserve our engineering, activities and manufacturing factory units in France, we must, by sheer necessity, be totally reactive and innovative”, says Yann Jaubert, Chairman and CEO:

“We must be able to provide answers to the specific needs of each customer ASAP, with tailor-made solutions that optimize the customer’s industrial performance level. The digital revolution gives us precisely the opportunity to do just this; as we see it, tomorrow’s industry is already here today”.

As of now, the group’s design engineers produce all their work in 3D, simulating production operations on their screens and can even put on their virtual reality (VR) helmets and tour the digital twins of future production lines …


Three challenges

Alfi Technologies would now like to move to a new stage, calling for integration of more on-board intelligence, in the production line machines. “Our aim, in particular, is to retrofit the machines with predictive maintenance algorithms that would lead on to added value for our customers”, explains Yann Jaubert.

The difficulties inherent to the project are threefold: we have to sort the data we want to collect on the production lines; we have to be able to extract models that allow us to better detect the fore-signals of a risk of machine malfunction or failures or anomalous product characteristics, and to display this information in a graphic format that can be easily read and followed by the maintenance operatives. To attain this objective at the earliest time, we chose to work with the UTC-Roberval Laboratory. UTC is, in fact, physically close to some of our industrial sites and we have already had some previous collaboration with UTC on several other projects. The University possesses skills in maintenance issues and in data analysis, but also in electronics and signal data processing. The scientists can also help us if we wish to develop sensors for specific data that do not yet exist- on the market-place. What is more significant is that our partnership will provide a new opportunity to show UTC undergraduates that an SME like Alfi Technologies can offer very exciting career prospects!”

For Yann Jaubert, the challenge of data analysis is not restricted to simply predictive maintenance issues: “Today, once our equipment has been installed in a factory site, we no longer have a ‘visibility’ as to how the machines behave in production mode operations, nor in regard to possible improvements we might propose. The idea now is to forward the data collected on the industrialists’ production lines back to Alfi Technologie – and this can now be done at a cost far lower than before, using object Internet specific data links and networks. In this way, we shall be able to help our customers more easily to have their tools evolve as a function of the problems they encounter and integrate new needs and available innovations” .