How can German industry remain the leading factory equipment supplier? How can Germany further improve its competitiveness as a production location by adopting Industrie 4.0 solutions? What role can Germany play in setting standards and how can Industrie 4.0 benefit people in the world of work? Plattform Industrie 4.0 aims to find answers to these questions. Headed by the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and the Federal Minister of Education and Research, high-ranking representatives of companies, associations such as the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW), the Federation of German Industries (BDI), BITKOM, the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK), the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), the German Engineering Federation (VDMA) and the Central Association of the Electrical Industry (ZVEI), academia (Fraunhofer Gesellschaft), standardisation organisations and trade unions such as the German Metalworkers Federation (IG Metall) have been working since April 2015 to ensure that Germany can harness the opportunities linked to Industrie 4.0.
Focus of the working groups
Plattform Industrie 4.0 has a number of working groups centred around the issues of standards and standardisation, security of networked systems, legal frameworks, research, and initial and further training. In these working groups, companies, standardisation organisations, researchers and trade union representatives join with representatives from a number of Federal Ministries in order to develop potential solutions and recommendations for action. In addition to this, the participants try to identify meaningful examples that show how Industrie 4.0 applications can be successfully implemented. The steering committee, which includes business representatives, develops a strategy for the technical implementation of the working groups’ findings. The strategy group, which includes representatives from politics, industry associations, academia, trade unions, Federal Ministries and the German Länder, is tasked with providing policy leadership and assuming the role of a multiplier in the socio-political debate on the effects of Industrie 4.0.
Providing assistance for SMEs
Since its establishment, ‘Plattform Industrie 4.0’ has developed into one of the world’s largest networks for the digitalisation of industry. A number of the platform’s members – companies and associations – have launched the Labs Network Industrie 4.0 initiative and the Standardization Council Industrie 4.0 in order to speed up standardisation efforts in the area of Industrie 4.0 solutions. Labs Network Industrie 4.0 aims to help companies get started with Industrie 4.0 by providing them with the opportunity to test new technologies. The platform has also been at the heart of the development of RAMI 4.0 (Reference Architecture Model Industrie 4.0). RAMI 4.0 merges the essential technological elements of Industrie 4.0 in one single model and provides orientation to stakeholders from a wide range of different areas as they develop new standards for Industrie 4.0.
Plattform Industrie 4.0 and international cooperation
Industrie 4.0 is a trend that exists not only in Germany, but around the world. Developing joint standards and ensuring the interoperability of different systems in global value chains is therefore an important issue that must be discussed. Plattform Industrie 4.0 has built partnerships with other leading platforms from around the world. In July 2015, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the field of Industrie 4.0 (PDF, 51 KB - in German). In addition to this, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and the Standardization Administration of the People's Republic of China (SAC) have set up a joint working group on standardisation in the area of Industrie 4.0 as part of the Sino-German cooperation on standards. In March 2016, Plattform Industrie 4.0 started cooperation with the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) based in the US.
At the 2016 Hannover Fair, the platform presented a joint action plan with its French counterpart Alliance Industrie du Futur. This was done in the presence of Ministers Gabriel and Macron. This action plan sets out four fields of cooperation. It states that the partners want to develop scenarios for the use of Industrie 4.0 applications that are tailored to the needs of customers. In addition to this, the partners intend to set up several international testing centres that they want to use together. At the end of April 2016, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy adopted an agreement on cooperation on the internet of things and Industrie 4.0 (PDF: 87 KB) with the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). This agreement is to help German and Japanese companies work together more closely, and provide for more cooperation on international standards. The joint action plan adopted by Plattform Industrie 4.0 and Japan’s Robot Revolution Initiative (RRI) supplements these efforts.
Hanover Declaration Initial results and additional fields of cooperation
The signing of the ‘Hanover Declaration’ (in german) (PDF, 220KB) by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and the METI on 19 March 2017 marked the point at which the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) became part of the cooperation. Moreover, the Hanover Declaration served to present some initial results, including a joint position paper on industrial cyber security (in german) and a strategy paper for stronger cooperation within international standardisation bodies (in german). The signatories also agreed to provide greater mutual support to SMEs wishing to enter the other party’s market and to extend the existing cooperation to new fields such as vocational and continuing training and automated and connected driving.
The Industrie 4.0 platform also has a strong presence within the European Stakeholder Forum entitled Digitising European Industry. This forum, which is being coorganised by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and the European Commission, took place for the first time on 31 January. For Germany, it is an important tool for reaching the targets set within the country’s G20 Presidency.
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