To what extent is the 'fourth industrial revolution' in full swing? Will digitalisation turn everything on its head – or can German companies play the waiting game to see what the future brings? These and other questions were on the agenda of an event organised by Lower Saxony's minister for the economy Olaf Lies at the Land Office in Berlin on 30 March 2017. The title: „digital.niedersachsen – Perspektiven und Handlungsansätze“ (digital.lower saxony – outlook and initiatives). The summary: There is no way back – digitalisation of the production sector is not a 'maybe’, it's a 'must' for all companies that want to face up to international competition.
Industry 4.0: Digitalisation is no 'maybe', it's a 'must'
Addressing the challenges of digitalisation
Guido Hübner, head of technology at ASSMANN, and Dr Markus Tacke, CEO Siemens Wind Power, came to the same conclusion. The two experts from the business world gave the audience at the conference a lively explanation of how Industry 4.0 is already contributing to companies and what role it is likely to play in the near future. Among other issues, their presentations touched on production machinery that cuts boards into any conceivable shape, glues the edges or fits panelling without any human assistance and that always carries precisely the right tools – several of the things that even now are everything other than distant pipe dreams at ASSMANN. "We need to face up to the challenges of digitalisation today if we want to play a leading role in global competition. Otherwise we may be left lagging quite some way behind", urged Guido Hübner. "Let's not forget: it's also a question of protecting jobs in Lower Saxony."
What will the future bring?
But to what extent will digitalisation permeate the worlds of production and work? Will our office furniture remind us when it's time to get up and continue our work at a standing desk? Will machines and programs do everything for us? And how is the white van man meant to cope with these immense challenges? The discussions after the presentation soon revealed that digitalisation is a hot potato that poses many unanswered questions.
But the purpose of the event in the Lower Saxony Land Office was to raise awareness for these issues and to provide a setting for attendees to share their impressions and to learn from the collective experience of a larger network. ASSMANN and Siemens Wind Power were willing and able partners, as they have already started initiating the 'digital transition' that the State of Lower Saxony is so keen to embrace in order to ensure the continued prosperity of the regional economy. Welcome to the age of Industry 4.0!