Industry 4.0 – a fair of visions

How are you actually getting on with Industry 4.0? If you are like almost a third of German companies, then you have implemented very little in your business practice so far and have the feeling that you are still a long way from achieving these things. According to a survey by the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) and the Center for European Economic Research (IEW), almost a third of companies have not yet addressed Industry 4.0; in companies with fewer than 50 employees, this even applies to half [1].

Why is that? Do all these companies not feel affected by the topic of Industry 4.0? After all, according to the survey, another third of the companies surveyed are already working intensively on implementing Industry 4.0.

We’re all a little further along than some of us think, because digitalization has been a part of practically all of our companies for a long time. Most production companies have already made the journey from manual lathes via NC to CNe and perhaps to DNC operation. Isn’t that already a piece of Industry 4.0? CNC operation is certainly a step in the right direction, but it is unlikely to inspire any enthusiasm for technical progress. DNC operation, on the other hand, brings real networking to the factory.

Is it perhaps more the case that most companies are already on the way to digitizing the factory, but many would not even understand this as Industry 4.0? I would not be surprised. If you follow the discussion of the augurs, you might think that Factory 4.0 only begins when machines, workpieces, tools and devices communicate directly with each other. There is talk of cyber-physical systems and the Internet of Things, through which everything communicates with everything else and makes decisions as decentrally as possible. And so that the individual components in the Industry 4.0 world know what is going on in their environment, they are teeming with sensors that measure, feel and see everything. Decentralized intelligence sparks in everything and so everything diagnoses, configures and optimizes itself.

In the published world of Factory 4.0, the fruits are sometimes very high; what is exciting and discussed is what is “state beyond the art” and thus an image of Industry 4.0 is built up. which requires a break with the status quo rather than representing its continuous further development.

However, there will be no other way than continuous further development, because Industry 4.0 is investment-intensive; there is no such thing as free automation in the factory. When it comes to machine tools, we tend to think in terms of investment cycles of ten to 15 years rather than five-year increments. The digitalization of the factory will continue to evolve, giving us time to solve certain problems, such as the. The issue of data security needs to be better managed.

We are at the beginning of an (information) technology development that will continue to progress. But just as the industrial revolution was not such a revolution, we will not perceive Industry 4.0 as one. Today, we are still experiencing a fair of visionary ideas whose practicability will gradually emerge.


Picture of Prof. Dr. Andreas Kemmner

Prof. Dr. Andreas Kemmner

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