German industry backed up by federal government are the promoters and leaders of the fourth industrial revolution, named Industry 4.0. The goal is clearly stated: prepare a sustainable future for domestic (German) industrial production and keep machine-tool industry on the leading edge.
Once understood Industry 4.0’s technological promises, the question about jobs in these future factories raises soon. It seems obvious that the 4th revolution will impact personnel, especially workers. Everybody assumes the less qualified, the harder the blow.
Preparing the future
A study from Fraunhofer IAO Institute and a prospective analysis by ERP editor SAP give some answers.
This serie of posts is based on an West-European point of view. I know best the French domestic situation and almost all early publication about Industry 4.0 is in German.
Born French citizen near the German border, I am fully French & German bilingual.
This article is based on the study’s management summary. You may find the manager’s summary and study on Fraunhofer IAO Institute website.
The recent years have seen the most important economic crisis since end of World War II as well as the fast recovery of German economy, a demonstration of the role of industrial production as keystone for the competitiveness of the German economy.
Highly volatile markets, new entrants and global players, client-specific products and complex production processes require flexible and responsive systems and staff while keeping leading edge in quality and productivity.
Actual developments, like Industry 4.0, flexible Low-Cost-Automation and use of social media and mobile devices in production open new horizons.
The Fraunhofer IAO has examined the following key questions for this study:
- What development of the production work German manufacturing companies will face?
- What solutions for successful production work are rising from the use of new technologies such as mobile devices, cyber-physical systems (CPS) and social media in production?
- How will the megatrend flexibility influence production work?
Summary of findings
- Automation will allow ever smaller production batches yet manpower will remain important component of future production systems.
- Flexibility is and will remain a key factor for production in Germany but in shorter lead-times.
- Flexibility has to be more focused and systematically organized. An “overall flexibility” will not be enough.
- Industry 4.0 means more than networks of cyber-physical systems. It’s about smart data collection, storage and sharing between and by smart objects and humans.
- Decentralized production management systems multiply, yet a decentralized and fully autonomous production management of the smart objects is not in sight.
- Safety and security of smart facilities must be taken into account from their early design.
- Workers’ and knowledge workers’ usual tasks will continue to come together. Production operators will take charge of more product design aspects.
- People will have to be trained directly and qualified on-the-job, on short notice, for barely anticipatable tasks.
The results reflect the existing expectations in theory as well as in practice. They serve as a base for discussing sustainable and competitive Germany based production.