According to a newspaper article on welt.de, labour costs in Germany once again shot up in 2019. At the same time, productivity remained stagnant or even declined slightly. Especially in an industrial nation like the Federal Republic of Germany, automation and Industry 4.0 are playing a crucial role in minimising negative economic effects, and therefore negative effects on your company. But what even is Industry 4.0?
Its historical predecessors
A short, historical outline: Industry 1.0 was the first machine-based mass production. This began around 1800, for example with looms. The second industrial revolution followed in the late 19th century, largely due to the discovery of electricity. It was not until the 1970s that Industry 3.0 arrived with the advent of computers/IT.
We have now arrived at Industry 4.0, which involved the networking of people, machines and products. As is so often the case these days, the critical key word here is digitalisation. Industry 4.0 specifically refers to digitalisation within industry/production. The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is collecting practical examples on its „PLATTFORM INDUSTRIE 4.0“ website. It provides examples of how Industry 4.0 is currently being used in practice.
A vivid presentation of Industry 4.0
For example, the website lists applications like the development of a transport system comprised of autonomous and cooperative (i.e. intelligent) robots within a manufacturing plant to optimise the demand-driven flow of materials as part of a networked production system. Or condition monitoring systems and sensors that make it possible for machines and even products diagnose their own maintenance needs. (More information is also available through the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) on this website.)
Prof Dr Rainer Maria Wagner is regarded as a pioneer among medium-sized businesses. His 2018 book, Industrie 4.0 für die Praxis: Mit realen Fallbeispielen aus mittelständischen Unternehmen und vielen umsetzbaren Tipps (“Industry 4.0 for Use in Practice: With Real Case Studies from Medium-Sized Enterprises and Lots of Practical Tips”), contains 315 pages of real case studies from businesses. Wagner, an honorary professor, runs a seating furniture company and has taken a stand against cheap competitors by using robots in a smart factory system. And he doesn’t gloss over the social aspect. According to Wagner, there is a danger that, without smart robots, our production could come to a complete standstill at some point. Those who don’t get on board today are likely to be left behind.
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Please contact Markus Portuné for any questions you might have about automation and Industry 4.0 in the factory of tomorrow.