Smart and flexible production processes

"Industrie 4.0" integrates manufacturing with state-of-the-art information and communication technology. This smart approach makes it possible to deliver tailored products to meet individual customer requirements - at low cost and in high quality. The "Industrie 4.0" factory looks like this: smart machines coordinate manufacturing processes by themselves, smart service robots cooperate with people on assembling the products, smart (driverless) transport vehicles cover the logistics side on their own. "Industrie 4.0" defines the entire life cycle of a product: from concept to development, manufacturing, use and maintenance - and on to recycling.

The "smart factory" will integrate manufacturing and logistics processes between different companies in order to optimise the material flow, to detect potential errors at an early stage, and to respond very flexibly to changing customer wishes and market conditions. The physical components of industrial production - e. g. machine tools - are transformed by smart, digital networking into cyber-physical systems (CPS). They form the basis of the smart factory of the future. The benchmarks for costs and emissions will be equivalent to those of serial manufacturing.

A central task for society and government

The German government wants to utilise the enormous potential of digitisation of commerce and "Industrie 4.0" to strengthen Germany's manufacturing base. Roughly 15 million jobs depend directly and indirectly on the goods-producing sector in Germany. Smart, digital production processes offer major opportunities for small and medium-sized firms in particular.

Industrie 4.0 is a central focus of the Federal Government's Digital Agenda. In the two funding programmes "Autonomics for Industrie 4.0" and "Smart Service World", the Economic Affairs Ministry is already providing close to €100m to foster research and innovation in the field of "Industrie 4.0".

"Industrie 4.0" Platform: Launch of the platform at the Hannover Messe trade fair

"Industrie 4.0" offers major opportunities for Germany to supply the world's industries: if commerce, science, government and society jointly and proactively shape the digital revolution, we can enhance prosperity and quality of life for all. We are doing this with a new "Industrie 4.0" platform.

Under the leadership of Economic Affairs Minister Gabriel and Research Minister Wanka, the previous platform of business associations has been broadened, and the alliance now includes government representatives, representatives of business associations (VDMA, ZVEI, BITKOM, BDI, VDA, BDEW), trade unions (IG Metall) and science (Fraunhofer Society).

The substantive work of the platform is initially being undertaken in five working groups (reference architecture, standardisation / research and innovation / security of networked systems / legal framework / labour, training).

Structure of the "Industrie 4.0" platform:

Structure of the "Industrie 4.0" platform; Source: BMWi

© BMWi

The achievements made by the business association platform to date, as well as its outlook, aims, and agenda for the future, were presented at the "Industrie 4.0" platform kick-off event at the HANNOVER MESSE trade fair on 14 April 2015. The first tangible results from the working groups are to be developed by the end of the year and presented at the IT Summit.

Further information about the new "Industrie 4.0" platform can be obtained from geschaeftsstelle@plattform-i40.de.

The platform's governing body includes Economic Affairs Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Research Minister Johanna Wanka as well as representatives from business, science, and trade unions. A strategy group comprising representatives from the German government ministries, business, business associations, trade unions, science, and the federal states will take on the task of political governance and of acting as multipliers. There will also be a steering committee composed of companies and the heads of working groups which, working in cooperation with the Economic Affairs Ministry and Research Ministry, will serve as the decision-making body responsible for strategic development, technical coordination, and technical implementation.

New business models and a changing world of work

"Industrie 4.0" will change value chains: new business models will emerge. The world of work will change significantly as a result of "Industrie 4.0" and the increasing digitisation of the economy. "Industrie 4.0" can open up new areas of creativity for the employees, and requires well-trained skilled workers with appropriate skills.

In this context, it is necessary to address at an early stage questions of labour organisation, job design, health and safety at work, data protection and skills development.

Using standards to create transparent and open procedures

The close networking of technologies and manufacturing requires an intensive exchange of data and information. This means that uniform standards are crucial for "Industrie 4.0". The development and definition of uniform standards is not only important for the future of specific sectors of industry in our country - such as mechanical engineering and automation technology - but also for the shaping of "Industrie 4.0" and thus for the entire economy. Strong sectors in Germany which are currently the world leaders when it comes to equipping factories must face up to the digital challenges of "Industrie 4.0", whilst avoiding technological and commercial dependency in the interest of fair and open competition. A workshop held on 19 February 2015 by the Economic Affairs Ministry together with the German Commission for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies (DKE) showed that consensus-based standardisation and its fair, transparent and open procedures are important for the future development - not least in order to prevent concentrations of market power in specific stakeholders.