What does the enormous progress in information technology mean for the German economy?

Ten years ago, the former SAP CEO Henning Kagermann, the former head of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, Wolfgang Wahlster, and Wolf-Dieter Lukas, who is now State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Research, came up with a concept and a defining term: Industry 4.0 .

What has become of it?

Alexander Armbruster

Responsible editor for Wirtschaft Online.

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    “The first half can be characterized by the fact that we have first digitally recorded, transferred and saved all production data.

    That is taken for granted today, ”concluded Wahlster during a panel discussion at the German Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech).

    "But now, in the next half-time, the comprehensive digital evaluation and use of this data by means of artificial intelligence (AI) will be added to enable zero-defect production."

    "Eco systems, not ego systems"

    The traditional Bosch group, for example, would like to make this specifically usable in its recently inaugurated new semiconductor factory in Dresden. "Every day there are 42 million printed A4 pages of data," said Bosch board member Volkmar Denner. Bosch uses AI to evaluate these, otherwise there is no other way - on the one hand to control the quality, but on the other hand also to control the production itself. Denner also warned that Europe should not fall too far behind in terms of semiconductor manufacturing in competition with America and China. In his opinion, however, the focus must be on being able to keep up with the smallest structures. Europe does not need "to run for nanometers, but for where we have customers here".

    For Germany and Europe, it must also be a matter of becoming or remaining a leader not only in central industrial technologies, but also in the standards used. "Otherwise we end up with 100,000 digital twins who don't want anything to do with each other," emphasized Siemens board member Cedrik Neike. SAP board member Thomas Saueressig affirmed that technological "eco systems, not ego systems" are needed to ensure this.

    For German industry as a whole, it is a matter of defending its leading position in many areas, said BDI President Siegfried Russwurm. “We want to remain the world's manufacturing pioneer.” A key to this lies in increased cooperation between companies, large and small. Another in the ability to scale one's own business, i.e. to be able to offer it on a large market. “Nostalgia for the 50s doesn't help us, we have to think at least in a European way.” And this is precisely because the international competition has increased. “The others didn't sleep,” said Henning Kagermann for his part.

    IG Metall boss Jörg Hofmann warned that in many companies "basic digitization skills are still lacking across the board".

    The need for further training in view of technical progress is increasing, not decreasing.

    Wahlster, in turn, explained that different technologies are now interlocking, in which new levels are reached - in mobile communications (5G), in cloud computing and, last but not least, in AI.

    “The entire cognitive cycle from perceiving to understanding to acting is implemented.” The next government should also support this research.