Industrie 4.0 and Smart Manufacturing – EIT Digital facilitates dialogue between German and US Experts

With its vibrant industry corporations and globally successful SMEs, Germany is at the forefront of 'smart manufacturing', meaning a new approach towards manufacturing with the goal of optimizing concept generation, production, and logistics with the help of advanced information and manufacturing technologies. Originating from Germany, “Industrie 4.0” has become the key phrase for this aspect of the digital transformation and German entrepreneurs and change managers are leading the path towards its adoption.

As part of the Year of German-American Friendship – “Wunderbar together” (funded by Federal Foreign Office of Germany, implemented by Goethe Institut, and supported by BDI), EIT Digital and the German American Business Association (GABA) joined forces to facilitate an exchange of knowledge and best practice between top experts from both sides of the Atlantic. How far have we come with smart manufacturing in Germany and the US respectively? What are the key elements of Industrie 4.0 and how can newcomers start to adopt them? Where can we cooperate better to create win-win-situations?

Industrie 4.0 is a core theme within EIT Digital’s Innovation Action Line Digital Industry as well as within the EIT Digital ecosystem of partners from leading European companies, research and technology institutes, and universities. EIT Digital has a strong footprint in Germany: operating a Node in Berlin and a Satellite office in Munich, our local organization calls leading German companies such as Siemens, SAP and Deutsche Telekom as well as key research and technology organizations such as the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) and the Fraunhofer Society its partners.

Building on this fundament, EIT Digital got engaged in the “Year of German-American Friendship” and developed this project with a focus on establishing new relationships and stimulating dialogue between Germany and the US. With our Silicon Valley Hub, the bridge between our European network and the Silicon Valley innovation ecosystem, we had a natural facilitator in place. The facilitation was supported by UC Berkeley Institute of European Studies, SAP, German Consulate General in San Francisco, and German American Chambers of Commerce.

A German Industrie 4.0 delegation, led by Rainer Glatz (VDMA), Thomas Koenen (BDI), Volker Smid (Searchmetrics), Dieter Wegener (Siemens), and Detlef Zühlke (SmartFactory) travelled to San Francisco/Silicon Valley and Chicago to engage with US counterparts and stakeholders in roundtable discussions, site visits and conferences.

The key learnings from these discussions can be summarised as follows:

Industrie 4.0 is no longer a concept for the future, but already now part of the digitalization of the economy in an increasingly connected world. It is actively deployed, across Europe and beyond, based on available standards and platforms. The implementation of Industrie 4.0 solutions leads to increased efficiency as well as to faster development and deployment and enables new business models.

The fourth industrial revolution drives economic, environmental and social benefits for enterprises as well as for society. However, in order to ensure support and buy-in of all stakeholders, transparency is a must and in particular employees, who are directly affected by the transformation, have to be kept in the loop.

A precondition for successful smart manufacturing is the capability to collect, communicate and interpret available data. Whether the system intelligence is in the cloud or at the edge of the network is a secondary factor. The smart factory is built on smart modules that are standardized in such a way that they can be reliably combined into smart systems.

Industry associations have a crucial role in accelerating – in alignment with other stakeholders – progress in smart manufacturing, partly due to potential regulatory implications that need to be addressed with lawmakers.

As a follow up to these fruitful encounters, US companies interested in connecting with the German Industrie 4.0 ecosystem were warmly invited to come to Germany and specifically to attend the Hannover Messe in April 2019.

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