Made in China 2025 meets German Industry 4.0 – The Future of Manufacturing

The “Made in China 2025” strategy presents an ambitious roadmap for the modernisation of Chinese industry. With the “German Industry 4.0” concept as an inspiring model, China is eager to bridge the technological gap and to move manufacturing up the global value chain. Part of the Innovation Partnership between the two powers is their agreement to strengthen the combined efforts in research and development of revolutionary new technology. Closely linked to this new era of in-depth cooperation between China and Germany are the developments around what is called industry 4.0.

Towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Around the globe, traditional manufacturing industry is on the cusp of a transformation that paves the way towards the 4th industrial revolution. (Steam engines powered the 1st Industrial Revolution. The 2nd industrial revolution then heralded the era of electrically supported mass production with the first assembly lines in 1870, followed by the 3rd industrial revolution that further automated production through industrial robots and programmable logic control systems.) With today’s growing fusion of the real and the virtual world through cyber-physical production systems (CPPSs) we are at the dawn of a new era of industrial production. After the mechanisation, the electrification and the digitalisation of the industry, it shall now become intelligent.

Envisioning the Smart Factory

Whether it’s smart phone, smart factory or smart home, the key to smartness is the IoT, the Internet of Things – basically a network of “intelligent” objects that are able to collect and share data. Hence, what commentators call the “intelligentisation” of industry is the targeted convergence of state-of-the-(sm)art technology including flying maintenance robots, sensor technology, intelligent drones and 3D printing with classical industrial processes. Within the smart factories of tomorrow’s industry 4.0, a completely interconnected network of machines, products, information and people transforms production into a functional interaction throughout the entire value creation chain. Cyber-physical systems communicate, cooperate and control each other in real time, thereby enabling a self-organising and constantly self-optimising factory.

A Smart Factory Needs Smart People

Now, will the coming factories be deserted? Certainly not! Whether the transformation to industry 4.0 is to be successful or not, will be a question of human potential and greatly depends on individuals ready to carry through this change in the next decades. Given its technological features, the challenge is to identify and implement the new opportunities provided by industry 4.0. Since these opportunities are not always apparent, it’s a matter of making it visible. And this is exactly where Systematic Innovation comes in, a radical new approach to innovation that methodically develops the ability to look around the corner in order to be one step ahead of the change.

Locating the Hidden Potential

In wake of the digitisation, we will work in gradually smarter environments and businesses need to become collaborative learning organisations. The upcoming innovations are not restricted to product innovation but take place in structures, networks and processes including new designs of cooperation and new levels of global value creation. Systematic Innovation delivers the skillset to achieve this and to jointly lay the foundations for playing a leading role in the 4th Industrial Revolution.

To be continued…