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Fives Group examines responses to industry in France, China and the US

World Cement,

To mark its bicentenary in 2012, Fives asked the people of France about their feelings on the subject of industry and industrial plants. A clear grasp of industrial realities, a desire for more information and confidence in the future: this survey revealed just how much affection French people have for their industrial base and how convinced they are of its ability to reinvent itself.

This initiative has since progressed, with the same survey being conducted in two other leading industrial nations where Fives also has a strong presence: the USA and China. Conducted at a time of globalisation in world trade, this survey shows that, just as in France, the values conveyed by industry are positive, although expectations and levels of optimism vary between these three countries, which are at different stages in their industrial history.

This second survey has been conducted as part of Fives’ Observatory for the Plants of the Future, an initiative designed to encourage a positive and dynamic view of tomorrow’s industrial world.

Chinese and Americans are enthusiastic about European industry

China and the USA are united in their perceived image of European industry, which is very positive overall: they believe it to be innovative (92% and 80% respectively) and competitive (92% and 76%), and that as a result, it plays an important role in global industry (91% and 78%) and will continue to do so in the future (81% in both countries). So the Chinese and Americans are a great deal more enthusiastic than the French themselves, 54% of whom believe that it is no longer possible to reindustrialize France due to competition from emerging countries! French perceptions of the overall image of industry are also much more pessimistic than those of people in China and America: only 36% see it as an appealing sector of the economy, especially for young people, compared with 82% in China and 67% in the USA.

Far from adopting the traditionally downbeat attitude to industry, people in France, China and the USA share the same optimistic vision of industry and the potential for economic growth it represents: respondents in all three countries agree that industry is an economic sector of the future, as long as its focus is on cutting-edge industries (France 82%, China 83% and the USA 87%).

The industrial plant of tomorrow

France, China and the USA: respondents in all three countries share the same vision of the industrial plant of tomorrow. Most importantly, it will be innovative (88%, 93% and 84% respectively), international in outlook (85%, 87% and 81%) and more environmentally friendly as a result of reducing its consumption of energy and raw materials (81%, 86% and 83%). The most optimistic views come from China, where there is clear confidence about what the industrial plant of tomorrow will be, and very high expectations about its more effective integration into the urban environment (63%, compared with 15% in France and 23% in the USA). When asked about the possibility of building clean industrial plants, the Chinese feel that this would not be possible at the moment, but could be envisaged in the future (56%, compared with only 23% in France and 19% in the USA).

The current state of the Chinese industry crystallizes high expectations amongst the population in respect of environmental protection: 63% of Chinese respondents cite this value as the most important to be respected by any industrial plant, compared with only 46%  of French respondents and 40%  of Americans.

Frédéric Sanchez, Fives Group Executive Board Chairman, commented on the outcomes: “Despite being at different stages in their industrial history, the expectations of our stakeholders are the same in all three countries. It is therefore up to us in industry to work towards delivering the innovative solutions that respond to those expectations. That is the ambition of Fives, which supplies equipment and industrial plants that impose less impact on the environment and are more eco-friendly.

A very strong attachment to industry

France, China and the USA share the same positive vision of the values described by the terms ‘innovation’, ‘engineer’, ‘work’ and ‘enterprise’, all of which attract the agreement of almost all those individuals interviewed. Differences emerge over the term ‘industrial plant’, which has positive connotations for only 55% of French respondents, compared with 79% of Chinese respondents and 69% of Americans. It is notably the case that social perceptions of industrial plants and the working conditions experienced by those who work in them are where the greatest differences can be seen between the USA and China on the one hand, and France on the other. In the USA and China, more respondents believe that industrial plants create jobs (90% and 86% respectively, compared with 69% in France), that they create a social link (77% and 82%, compared with 68%) and that those who work in them are given responsibility (92% and 65%, compared with 55%).

Interestingly, these wide discrepancies have a direct parallel in people feeling that they are ill-informed about industrial plants and what they do: 86% of French respondents feel that the general public knows too little about industrial plants, compared with only 39% in China and 65% in the USA. Frédéric Sanchez again: “Chinese and American people have a clear understanding of these issues: since their industrial plants are often central to a particular region, they have a better understanding of industry as a source of innovation and social links. It is by throwing wide the doors of our industrial plants that we will sweep away the essentially negative view held in France.”

The Fives Observatory for the Plants of the Future: a positive perspective on tomorrow’s industry

As part of its Observatory for the Plants of the Future launched in 2012, Fives, the industrial engineering group central to global industrial challenges, brought the public face-to-face with industry experts to initiate a debate about tomorrow’s industry as the basis for defining the industrial plants of the future. This was achieved by organising a year-long cycle of events:

  • A survey of French attitudes to industrial plants and French industry in general.
  • 15 interviews with specialists expert in the issues facing industry: economists, academics, industrialists and the heads of social organizations.
  • A citizens’ conference that sparked public debate and led to a charter of recommendations regarding the conditions under which people would be prepared to accept an industrial site close to their own home.

The conclusions derived from all these initiatives have been compiled and interpreted in the first edition of the Report of Fives Observatory for the Plants of the Future, now available online at

In 2013, this initiative is being extended internationally by bringing together leaders in innovation to share their vision of an ‘industrial plant for the world’ via a series of events.

Written by Fives Group

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