The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) opened up on Industrie 4.0 yesterday, explaining why partnerships will be essential to the future of digital manufacturing.
MUNICH, GERMANY — Ernst Stockl-Pukall, whose role is as head of division for digitization, Industrie 4.0, was the opening keynote speaker at the Internet of Manufacturing in Munich yesterday, where he gave a detailed overview of Germany’s Industrie 4.0, the future of manufacturing and the challenges ahead for digitized, factory plants.
Touching first on how digitization has spread from the consumer technology market into the B2B world, he said that the trend for smarter and more efficient factories affects everyone – including governments.
“The impact of digitization is affecting everyone, and data is the key resource of the future. New business models are emerging, and it means that markets are changing very fast and technological innovation cycles will be much faster in the future.”
“The manufacturing sector is being driven by digitization. The opportunities are huge, but the challenges are as well. Digital changes are key political issues, not only in Berlin but in all industries countries.”
Automotive leads the way
Germany’s Industrie 4.0, otherwise known as the fourth industrial revolution, has been defined as a ‘collective term for technologies and concepts of value chain organization’ which draws together Cyber-Physical Systems, the Internet of Things and the Internet of Services. It is ultimately the vision towards smart factories, and Stockl-Pukall says that the early benefits can be seen in the automotive market.
“For Germany, the automotive industry is the most important industrial sector, you can see dramatic changes going on. What you can see is the boundaries between IT sector and automotive sectors are blurring.”
Citing Google’s efforts with driverless cars, and how car makers are increasingly looking to provide additional connected services in the vehicle, he said that the automated and connected car market will be worth $160 billion by 2020 – four times as much as last year.
You might like to read: Does IoT change how manufacturers operate?
Germany’s efforts with digitization go beyond simply Industrie 4.0 of course, with the country’s government rolling out Digital Strategy 2025, a ten-step guide to successful digitization, at Hannover Messe.
The strategy includes a strong focus on modernizing manufacturing through Industrie 4.0, research and innovation (as one example, the Government speaker said that Internet speeds in Germany could and should be improved through the roll-out of fiber network to the home). It also looks to provide an international playing field and harden data security, while adhering to existing and incoming regulations, such as EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.
Stockl-Pukall admits that driving this change can be difficult, especially finding funding for these projects, and admits that the government could be doing more on research and development in industrial markets.
“The amount of research going into innovation is still a bit low compared to other countries, so there’s room for improvement” he said, adding that 14 percent of research budget at German companies goes into the industrial use of digital technologies. US companies, however, invest twice as much.
Industrie 4.0 and SMEs
Stockl-Pukall said that with Industrie 4.0, Germany is in a ‘good position to move into the digital age’ but was still keen to demonstrate numerous tackles to adoption.
Speaking to Internet of Business after his talk, he was particularly keen to stress how the Federal Ministry is providing education and resources for SMEs who are – as of yet – unaware of the benefits of Industrie 4.0. The Ministry is also providing support schemes where SMEs can test IoT use cases in a safe environment.
The government official stresses that Industrie 4.0 benefits are clear but admits that there are issues to be resolved around the skills shortage, a lack of standards and security concerns.
Stockl-Pukall detailed how Industrie 4.0 was relaunched at Hannover Messe in April last year, and has progressed from just three associations to now include government, academia and trade unions.
“If you bring all stakeholders together we are in a much position to deal with all the challenges going digitization and Industrie 4.0 in that case.”
The focus of Industrie 4.0 is now:
- Not to develop new business models, but to ‘extract new options’ for implementing Industrie 4.0 within organisations
- To develop recommendations for industry and government
- Mobilise SMEs
Partnerships are key
“Every second company in Germany expects competitors from other sectors will attack their core business,” he says, yet he added that only six from ten companies think they are prepared for Industrie 4.0.
The Federal Ministry has a number of working groups looking at all aspects of Industrie 4.0, including research and innovation, security, legality and standards.
The latter is a hot topic with Stockl-Pukall saying that standardisation is “definitely key” to successful implementation of Industrie 4.0/IoT, with interoperability also vital for fair competition. International standards must be established too, he says.
But all of this is not to say that the German government is only keen to drive Industrie 4.0 within the country – because it is also doing a lot to make this trend international.
Germany has signed Industrie 4.0 MOUs with China and Japan, while Industrie 4.0 is to formalize an agreement with France’s Alliance d’industrie du futur (collaborating on standardisation, test beds, use cases, education). Last month, representatives from Industrie 4.0 and Industrial Internet Consortium agreed to co-operate.
You might like to read: German production plants were using IoT – back in 2005