French industry in the factory era of the future

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From the decline of French industry to Bordeaux’s disillusionment

When one looks at the figures of the Frenchindustry (1), at first glance, one might be tempted to see it as an encouraging result. However, the trend has been in a long decline since the 1970s, with less than 10% of national GDP, when the industry weighed more than 22.3%   in 1970. A slow decline in consequentive employment, with less than three million people today.

A trend confirmed byINSEE(2), which notes that “volume production in the “industry” sector slowed markedly in 2016 (up 0.9%, after 1.9%). It remains 7.0% below its highest level in 2007. “A slowdown that affects all branches.

Overall, the “big companies”, those that employ more than 5000 employees, are only 220, out of 123,000 groups located in France(3). Alstom, Florange, or, locally, Ford Blanquefort… Disillusionment is the news(4).

However, the combination of private local initiatives and the definition of a real industrial policy can lead to the renewal of French industry.

A delicate transformation in an ultra-competitive environment

A French industry in need of competitiveness

According to the DGE(⁵),if the French industry is at half-mast, this is due to “margin compression and low investment momentum in the 2000s. Its low level does not protect it enough from international competition””. As indicated in the 2017 annual report of theCOE-Rexecode Institute(⁶), France also suffers from insufficient foreign trade. This is complemented by the decline in industrial employment, which is correlated with the lower margin rate for industrial companies. According to S. Villers(⁷), “companies have squeezed their prices to curb their loss of competitiveness”

. At the same time, the   cost of labour is rising faster than productivity. However, “France continues to channel its production into low-value-added or low-tech industries”, a model that is not sustainable in the long term.


A recovery that rhymes with deep restructuring


n strong deterioration in the 2000s, the price-competitive factors of the French manufacturing industry are now evolving more favourably

“. The new industrial France must accelerate its transformation, and is lagging behind, the outcome of which requires a consequent re-industrialization. Indeed, it is striking that to date France has less than 35,000 production robots installed in France, while Italy has nearly 65,000, and Germany more than 150,000(⁸).  


Flexibility and diversification

The Future Industry Alliance (AIF) highlights the sectoral dynamics to be implemented(⁹) in aeronautics, construction, rail, automotive, naval and agri-food industries. Key words include robotics, flexible production and cost reduction, the search for higher quality, risk reduction, diversification of customer services, improved competitiveness through the virtualization of production lines, improved communication or increased attention to traceability and predictiveness.


The factory of the future, the hope of an innovative salvation

Industry Week

For the past eight years, Industry Week, organized by the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the DGE – Corporate Directorate- is an opportunity to bring new projects and new hopes toFrench industry(10) and make them known to the general public. This year, the theme is dedicated to the Connected Industry. The opportunity to promote initiatives related to digital, in view of the government’s desire to boost this sector.

In Gironde, nearly 12,000 companies are dedicated to this sector. A major issue for the departmental economy, which the ICC – Bordeaux Gironde Chamber of Commerce and Industry is well aware of. Industry Week takes place with the immersion of young high school students at the heart of a dozen companies, including SOTOMECA (mechanical engineering in Bazas), ADAM (wood packaging in St. Helena), STERIS (health equipment at Haillan), or the CASSOUSGroup (BTP Group in Mérignac(11)).

An event that will also highlight many companies based and manufacturer in Gironde, such as EMSPROTO, LUCAS ROBOTICS SYSTEM or TOPSTAR.

The “Factory of theFuture” program

The Factory of the Future(12) programme aims to boost the industrial sector by modernising and energizing it. In New Aquitaine, there are many calls for projects for companies, between 20 and 5000 employees. In particular, in terms of robotics and research and development, the Future Factory accelerates collaborative robot projects(¹³).



1 “Key Industry Figures,”, 2016 edition
2 “Tables of the French Economy,” INSEE, 2018 edition
3 Figures 2015 published in December 2017 – INSEE
4 “Ford Blanquefort: 1000 jobs threatened by the project to close the plant (including that of Philippe Poutout)”, Huffington Post, 27 Feb. 2018
⁵ DGE Study 77 – October 2017
⁶ CP January 18, 2018 French competitiveness in 2017, COE-Rexecode
⁷ “With labour costs equivalent to those of Germany, France is struggling to gain competitiveness”, published on 09 Sept. 2014, updated on March 16, 2018 in “The Challenges of French Industry”, Employment Let’s Talk Net
⁸ “The New Industrial France”,
⁹ Future Industry Line Studies, AIF, 2017
10 “Industry Week 2018: Think about leaving your event labelled!”, State services in Gironde, updated on 31 Jan. 2018
11 “Industry Week 2018: CCI Bordeaux Gironde Programme,” CCI Bordeaux Gironde, 20 March 2018

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