RFID im Blick

Industry 4.0 must grow from co-operation | Interview with Prof. Dr. Alexander Pflaum

Articles | By PR RFID im Blick | 17 December 2014

In order to uphold Germany’s position in the competitive international industry, companies, organizations and associations, politicians, and science have to work hand in hand.

„Ideas regarding Industry 4.0 are already the reality in some German industries. To be able to meet international competition, a change on many levels is needed“, says Prof. Dr. Alexander Pflaum. „It is of importance that all parties involved – major enterprises, SME, politicians, and research – pursue the same goal. This is the only way to use manufacturing technologies whose integration would overtax one single company alone.“ In the interview with „RFID im Blick“ Alexander Pflaum talks about factors that could secure the competitive position of Germany as a top industrial location.

Prof. Alexander Pflaum, head of the Center for Intelligent Objects (Zentrum für Intelligente Objekte ZIO) at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS, in an interview with Jan Phillip Denkers, „RFID im Blick“

Professor Pflaum, is Industry 4.0 a topic that is affecting all industries equally?

Prof. Dr. Alexander PflaumProf. Dr. Alexander PflaumYes, it is equally affecting all branches, but companies are in different states of development. For example, German car manufacturers have already realized Industry 4.0 ideas in some production areas. On the other hand, there are branches, such as the metal-processing industry, which have a large pent-up demand. Regarding innovation, mechanical engineering is in a difficult position as the products have very long product life cycles. Machines being in use for 30 years are not uncommon. However, mechanical engineering cannot be called a denier of innovations; the general conditions are just different.

How can the „Industrie 4.0 Platform“, originated by the German government and inter-branch organizations, support companies in their development?

This is something new, insofar as inter-branch organizations are working together for the first time, when they did not have much in common before. This brings up an already familiar problem – the disparity between industries: on the one hand, there is mechanical engineering with long product life cycles. On the other hand. the ICT-industry is characterized by extremely short product life cycles. The innovation culture in both branches is also very different. Now, we are using a multilayered approach to bring together both worlds.

Are the Industry 4.0 ideas which have already been realized transferable to other companies?

Usually, not without individual adaptations. In the car manufacturing industry, machines are already linked today. Production orders accompany the vehicle in production thorough the whole manufacturing process. In mechanical engineering, every machine is manually set up for the order. Although mechanical engineering can learn much about efficiency from the automotive industry in this area, it is not possible to transfer all solutions directly and completely as mechanical engineering requires a different kind of flexibility than the automotive industry. Generic roadmaps are a promising approach to defining fitting solutions, on which grounds companies can analyze their markets and their resources.

In spite of numerous challenges on multiple levels, Industry 4.0 can be a success – but only when the platform created also includes small- and medium-sized enterprises. They have more powerful innovative strength than major enterprises, who have money and longevity but are also slower and less flexible than SME

Who is the main driver of Industry 4.0?

The international competition, of which German industrial companies are a part, forces development the most. For example, the USA realized that they needed to re-industrialize their country and are pushing forward this development with great financial effort under the keyword „Industrial Internet“. Plus, the USA is already well set up in the IT-area.

At the same time, Germany is the world leader in mechanical engineering and automation technology. The advantages are distributed between these two countries. The objective is now to develop the German IT-landscape further and to link it to the automation technologies. Nevertheless, politicians and major IT-companies need to have an even stronger commitment to flexibility and a more intense will to innovate.

What does it take to turn Industry 4.0 into a German success story?

We need transfer the knowledge that exists today in academic and technical universities into practice. Those workers who are now dealing with Industry 4.0 did not acquire the required knowledge in their academic education. Knowledge management is also a very important success factor, in addition to a well-structured innovation management. Technologies such as RFID are often hard to integrate for SME.

If the mechanical engineering industry is now also bombarded with localization, mobile computing, big data analysis and other innovations, new challenges occur that can hardly solved by a single company alone. A well-functioning innovation management strategy is therefore necessary. In spite of numerous challenges on multiple levels, Industry 4.0 can be a success – but only if the platform created also includes small- and medium-sized enterprises. They have more powerful innovative strength than major enterprises, who have money and longevity but are also slower and less flexible than SME.

Last modified on Friday, 10 April 2015 10:35
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