Products of the future will be intelligent, communicative and customizable – people all over the world generally agree. But what exactly this means and what should be emphasized is different in different countries. In Germany, the land of mechanical engineering, Industry 4.0 means an emphasis on production, while in the USA, for example, the emphasis is on the internet of things, with a much broader focus.
The Industrial Internet Consortium in the USA also includes an initiative that is concerned with the coming disruptions in production. However, this means that they must rebuild their industry – according to the US employment statistics, the United States lost approximately six million jobs in manufacturing from 2000 to 2010. The jobs that replaced the manufacturing jobs are mostly in services, and are mostly at much lower pay.
The result was more and more people joining the army of the working poor – people who often have two or three jobs at the same time but still earn barely enough to survive. When factories are shut down no more new workers are trained, resulting in the loss of knowledge and skills. President Obama is trying to reverse this trend with new initiatives and is driving the reindustrialization of the USA. Fortunately, manufacturing industries are still strong in Germany and skilled workers are the basis of our economy – although it is becoming more and more difficult to find them.
The general approach of the two economies is similar, but they start from different prerequisites. While in Germany the concern is to maintain our technical advantage and continue our current success into the future, the USA is trying to use the success of their IT companies to revive their manufacturing industry. This means that the primary emphasis in Germany is on production while in the USA it is more on IT.
However, it would certainly be a good idea to look at the new technologies in this country. What is the use of smart production without smart products? The digitalization of all fields of life is a fact. And mass-market products are driving markets and standards – see computers, where cheap PCs and their processors have taken over the server market up to high-performance computing and have driven specialized processors into a niche market.
The internet of things is coming. The only question is whether companies or complete economies will be driven or will become drivers themselves. In short, there is no way to avoid Industry 4.0 and also the internet of things (IoT or IoE (internet of everything)) – the only remaining question is how it can be used for your company. The future will be lost without clearly defined strategies and implementation tactics covering the digitalization of all areas of life.
If a company does not react or only reacts half-heartedly to digitalization, this is the best way to take it out of the game completely and to slowly destroy it.
Dipl.-Ing. Ralf Steck
Mechanical engineer and trade journalist After graduating in mechanical engineering, he looked for a challenge that combined mechanical engineering and IT, and found it in trade journalism. He started with a publisher, freelance since 1996, Steck writes about software and hardware for digital product development from CAD systems to 3D printers. He does not restrict himself to journalism only but also designs with every CAD system with which he comes into contact and prints the parts in the 3D printer that he built – this means that he has in-depth practical experience. Another field of interest is all forms of modern media. He blogs at www.EngineeringSpot.de and is represented in all relevant social media platforms. His web site is www.Die-Textwerkstatt.de.