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Current Status of Industry 4.0

Interview with Dr. Ingo Herbst from the SmartFactory KL Technology Initiative.

The term Industry 4.0 was coined more than 12 years ago. Is the smart factory now a reality everywhere, or are many companies not yet producing “smart”?

We are on the way. Industry 4.0 (I40) stands for the 4th Industrial Revolution. This takes time. Currently, the management shell is a practical result of I40. This is giving rise to new opportunities such as shared production, recording the product carbon footprint, manufacturing as a service, etc. Many companies are working in this direction. I40 is a long process. Industry knows that, but for the media that is too slow. Now they are already talking about Industry 5.0. 

After Industry 4.0, AI is the next hype. What influence will AI have on developments in the smart factory?

As I said, I40 is not hype! AI is a key technology for the implementation of I40, i.e., the production of the future. It is based on the analysis of existing data. AI is not smart, but certain work is ideal, e.g., analyzing x-rays. It can detect abnormalities faster than any human. But it should not be allowed to make a final decision on whether cancer is suspected. That must be done by a doctor. AI will support and partially replace humans in production. But it will also create new jobs.

Will the constantly further optimized processes solve the shortage of skilled workers in the industry?

They can certainly contribute to this. The goal is to automate as many processes as possible so that employees can be deployed for more demanding tasks. It’s nonsense that someone always makes the same hand movement. There is a shortage of employees everywhere. In the metal industry alone, there will soon be a shortage of 700,000 people. Not even AI and automation can compensate for that.

Many companies have concerns about giving their data to third parties. Will and can Manufacturing-X solve this problem?

Manufacturing-X offers a sensational opportunity to further develop production with data rooms. It includes many ideas that we are currently already working. Keyword: Shared Production. German angst is world-famous. But companies should trust cloud operators who secure their data. Industrial edge clouds are also an option, and security elements can be implemented at many levels in the production architecture. Currently, we are looking at Federated AI. In it, machine learning becomes possible in the cloud with partial data. Maybe we should just get started instead of worrying about something and doing nothing.

SmartFactory-KL brings together stakeholders from industry and academia in a unique Industrie 4.0 network to collaboratively develop and implement projects for the factory of the future. On this manufacturer-independent demonstration and research platform, scientists test innovative technologies in cooperation with industry representatives in a realistic factory environment.

This interview was first published on the Hannover Messe website.