[Korea and the fourth industrial revolution <1-5>] How Germany hopes to reign again in production

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[Korea and the fourth industrial revolution <1-5>] How Germany hopes to reign again in production

Industrie 4.0 is a government-sponsored initiative to make Germany a leading provider of advanced manufacturing solutions by 2020.

The initiative came out of the 2011 Hanover Fair, an annual exhibition of industrial technology. There was growing fear at the time that traditional manufacturing powerhouse Germany might be overtaken by the United States, Japan and China in exports, as an increasing number of German companies were relocating to Eastern Europe.

The Working Group on Industrie 4.0, co-chaired by Henning Kagermann and Siegfried Dais from automotive supplier Bosch, presented a set of recommendations to the German federal government in April 2013. From this report, the government created an initiative that involved government ministries and academics as well as trade associations and labor unions.

Industrie 4.0 represents a paradigm shift from “centralized” to “decentralized” smart manufacturing and production, according to Germany Trade and Invest, an economic development agency of the German government. “Smart factories” will become the norm in a world where machines, systems and networks based on advanced information technology will be able to independently exchange and respond to information and manage industrial production processes, according to the agency.

Germany believes it has the ideal conditions to become a global leader in innovative, internet-based manufacturing technology and the service provisions to revolutionize manufacturing and production.

“Germany’s strong machinery and plant manufacturing industry, its globally significant level of IT competencies and its know-how in embedded systems and automation engineering mean that it is extremely well placed to develop its position as a leader in the manufacturing engineering industry,” the working group’s report said. “Germany is thus uniquely positioned to tap into the potential of a new type of industrialization: Industrie 4.0.”

The government initiative addresses some of the challenges facing the world: dwindling natural resources, increased urbanization and a growing population that’s also getting older. The report stressed that tackling these challenges will require Germany to put a large amount of effort into research and development.

The Working Group on Industrie 4.0 noted the connection between its recommendations and broader trends that have been described as the fourth industrial revolution, technological changes that can make computers work more intuitively like humans. In manufacturing, Internet of Things technology, which can wirelessly connect physical objects with each other through high-speed networks, is being employed in factories, marrying the worlds of mechanical production and digital connectivity. The changes impact not just the means of production but also civil society, governance structures and even human identity.

“Industrie 4.0 was meant to innovate with focus on manufacturing, based on the presumption that revolution in the field will eventually spill over into other sectors of industry,” said Kagermann, co-chair of the group.

Germany’s Industrie 4.0 initiative includes the participation of many of the country’s leading companies - chemical producer BASF, automaker Daimler, mobile carrier Deutsche Telekom and Bosch. Conglomerates like Siemens and General Electric have also embraced the initiative, and the momentum has been growing rapidly elsewhere in world, including the United States, Japan and China, according to Strategy&, a consulting firm under PwC.

BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun@joongang.co.kr]
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