The real story about Industry 4.0 in Germany

Summary of my Twitter Thread a few weeks ago

Let's face it, our german "Mittelstand" is mostly outdated and everything you hear about "Industry 4.0" is more buzzword and PR work than real results. Our thinking is broken and a recent regional IHK study conducted by the Fraunhofer IPA institute shows this.

Good News First

  • Comparing other studies with their result, they come to the conclusion that money can be made with those new fancy technologies and that a shift in revenue sources will happen.
  • They already ask the right questions like "Think about what your customer might really need". Yes, you need to tell companies that they might have to ask their customers.
  • Nearly all companies want to implement "Industry 4.0" in the near future but most of them don't know how. And I would estimate that another large group is just afraid to say this loud.
  • The leaders are using agile methods ("Small steps") in order to reduce risk and find new customers that are willing to pay.
  • They understand that the current education and training system ("Ausbildung") is broken and not up to date for current challenges

Go read the paper itself and you will find some awesome examples from real world projects as well.

It is getting complicated

Other findings do not reflect the usual buzzword talk you hear everyday.

  • They think Industry 4.0 will get more complex in the future.
  • ... while the current progress celebrated was installing WiFi and exchanging files via the cloud

Chart where 24% of companies think it gets more complicated up from 16%

The leading question is here how we can create solutions that counter-attack this mindset? Machine Learning, IoT data ownerships and new business models can be really scary.

Kodak and Nokia are not enough

In a classical german manner, companies see the biggest Industry 4.0 risk in costs and upcomming investments. Not that they might loose relevance, their market leadership or the whole company - no instead they know that new players are in the market. But there is no fear (yet). The disruption will happen to "the others". There is no threat.

Startups, software and the leaders are pushing while the majority is still waiting. The authors confirm this as the "lack of imagination for change" related to Industry 4.0 ideas is missing in most companies.

We're slow, know we need change but nothing happens.

Data Security

Not to be missed: Data Ownership, Security and Privacy are still a big topic especially in Germany. One example on how the "reality of fear" is far from most real threats is this example: They might steal our plans with an USB drive - and this wasn't possible 10 years ago. This is said in contrast to "our" bubble that is talking about how a blochain might be taken over...

What can we change?

As the initial tweet gained over 5000 views and countless reactions and was also part of the discussion in the Future of Manufacturin Community we tried to collect some take-aways and next steps:

  • Train and Teach people way more. Establish growth-thinking.
  • Change and Adoption Management is essential for Industry 4.0. More than technology right now
  • Stop talking about buzzwords and blockchain-based virtual twins. Show results
  • Find solution that can work with less data and less setup effort
2021-06-02

Philipp ReinerĀ 

is an expert for digital business models. I combine strategy, user experience and software to create a sustainable future today.