Industrie 4.0 - Where does the electrical industry stand?

"Industrie 4.0" stands for the complete digitisation and integration of the industrial value chain. This goes hand in hand with the digitisation of the product and service offering, which makes new business models possible.​​

​The intelligent workpiece will be produced in the smart factory of 2025.


What role does the automation sector play on the path to Industrie 4.0? 

The German automation industry will play a key role during the implementation of Industrie 4.0. Its expertise, equipment and systems are the prerequisite for the transition to digital production across geographical boundaries. We will fulfil this key position responsibly. The ZVEI member companies undeniably possess knowledge of the manufacturing and business processes in the industry from an electrical engineering and automation technology view and competency in the manufacture of cyber-physical systems.

What is behind the vision of the smart factory? 

A lot of flexibility, in both process and production automation. The vision of a "batch size of 1" is becoming reality, and companies produce cost-efficiently even at low quantities. The smart factory is networked with the other value-added systems – far beyond the individual production location.

So Industrie 4.0 is entirely changing industrial added value? 

Precisely, and indeed from the ground up. In future we will systematically use, analyse and combine all data generated during production. This will result in a huge variety of information, which represents major potential benefit for the user industries. We will see new players: The companies of the Internet industry are becoming more and more involved in the Industrie 4.0 market environment. 

That brings us to the challenges. What can we expect? 

Above all, a fast-paced era. We face the challenge of developing the business models on the Internet of things and services for ourselves, because third parties are also doing so. This also includes working with preliminary architectures. The ZVEI is therefore gradually implementing Industrie 4.0 applications together with its partners from the field of science and the user industries. We are developing specific use cases to make Industrie 4.0 tangible. 

How does this specifically benefit the companies of the electrical industry? 

Experience is exchanged with the user industries in the ZVEI use case workshops. Generic approaches for developing the Industrie 4.0 technologies are discussed at these regular meetings and checked within the context of the respective industry. 

And how will all the various products, systems and machines communicate with each other? 

Interfaces must be defined for this, because uniform semantics play a crucial role in the realisation of Industrie 4.0. This is particularly important in the interest of small and medium enterprises. Much is already in place, but new standards which secure a leading position for German and European industry in the long term must also be created. 

Which competencies do employees in smart factories need? 

Networking begins in the minds of people. IT competency is just as vital as the ability to model industrial processes and transfer them to digital systems. 

How is the ZVEI handling the topic of data security? 

To create value and offer solutions, the ZVEI is starting a dialogue process on the secure use of data on the Internet of things and services. We seek an exchange with the government, industry and society. A prerequisite for this and for Industrie 4.0 is effective cyber security in the plants and systems. Cyber security must encompass the protection of expertise and protection against cyber attacks. We are defining standards for this with the users. 

And for that we need broadband expansion and radio-based technologies in production? 

Exactly. Mobility requires radio-based technologies. They allow the simple linking of buildings, factories and plants to broadband communication. The ZVEI is especially concentrating on the topic of wireless and the European radio standard EN 300328, which must be expanded to include the concept of the "10 mW factory". Without wireless, there is no Industrie 4.0.

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