German SME’s great hope: profitable production of smaller batch sizes
Here is where the automation specialists, mechanical engineers and plant engineers among Germany’s small- and medium-sized enterprises see the opportunity to secure their technology lead over the competition. They are promising major productivity increases to their manufacturing customers – gains of up to 30% are believed to be possible, depending on the factory and industry.
This “new” industry is supposed to help Germany and Europe, in particular, as they try to secure their status as business locations. The reason: While Asia holds the lead in mass production, Europe’s future depends on individual-item and small-scale production. That’s precisely what the flexible Industry 4.0 concepts aims to facilitate: Production lines will be designed more flexibly and adjusted in a way that enables profitable manufacturing of small-batch runs and individual products.
As a result, information technology, telecommunications and manufacturing will coalesce in the factory of tomorrow. The term “Industry 4.0” signals historical aspirations in this context, as this “Fourth Industrial Revolution” could also imply a return to one-of-a-kind goods after decades of mass production.
But there are still hurdles to clear: How can IT security be guaranteed? Which technical standards will prevail? What qualifications are necessary for employees?
“Project of the Future - Industry 4.0” in Germany
The German manufacturing sector appears to be geared up for the change. Not only is Germany one of the pre-eminent production-technology and mechanical-engineering locations, it’s also a leader in mechatronic systems. Late last year, the German Industry-Science Research Alliance presented its recommendations for the implementation of the “Project of the Future – Industry 4.0” to the German government. The aim is to bolster Germany’s lead as a high-quality production location and a provider of the most up-to-date production technology.
All the experts agree that competitive manufacturing – especially in the high-wage country Germany – must leverage these new possibilities in smart ways. The starting position is a good one; Germany’s core manufacturing sector is a global leader and pioneer, and not just in the area of embedded systems. The task now is to increase this innovative lead further and turn it into a real competitive advantage.
Throughout this process, human labour will continue to be centrally important – maybe even more so than ever before – in order to ensure flexibility and productivity and to make decisions. In any case, successful manufacturing will continue to depend on qualified and motivated employees.