This is part six of our article series “The Corona Crisis as a Driver of Digitization”. Read the other parts of the article series
The digitization of German industrial companies is continuing to advance: production plants are increasingly networked, machines can communicate with each other in real time and robots are integrated into production processes as a matter of course. Between February and April, the digital association Bitkom surveyed 552 German industrial companies with more than 100 employees for a recently published representative study. The result is clear: just under six out of ten companies surveyed (59%) already use applications from the area of Industry 4.0. This term is used to describe the digitization of industrial production. There is a clear increase compared to the survey two years ago, when only 49% were using it. In addition, the proportion of industrial companies for which digitization is not important has decreased from 9% to 1% compared to 2018.
The more digital the more resistant in the corona crisis
“The manufacturing and processing industry is the core of the German economy – and it has enormous digital potential. Almost all companies have set out on the road to Industry 4.0,” says Bitkom President Achim Berg. According to his assessment, German industry was already well on the move before Corona digital. However, he warns that digitization projects should be neglected due to the crisis. Berg sees them rather as a way out of the crisis: “The more digitally oriented the industrial companies are, the faster they will recover from the consequences of the shutdown. The survey results prove the Bitkom president right, because the vast majority (94%) rate Industry 4.0 as a prerequisite for maintaining the competitiveness of German industry.
Digital business models as the future of German industry
In the industry, not only are individual production or process steps being digitized, but new business models are emerging: For almost three quarters of the companies surveyed (73%), the business model has changed in the course of digitization. The Bitkom President attaches great importance to this, especially in times of Corona: If production is now slowly being ramped up again with the removal of Corona restrictions, it is important once again to put one’s own business to the test: The business models of the future are exclusively digital”.
Among the most important digital solutions currently used by the industry are platforms on which services and products can be sold and which are used to exchange information between customers and suppliers. Pay-Per-Use or Production-as-a-Service, i.e. the sale of production capacities, are further examples of digital business models in production companies.
5G and artificial intelligence (AI) are among the most important trends
Just under three quarters of the companies surveyed (73%) are pinning their hopes above all on the new 5G mobile communications standard and regard it as important for their own business. Berg even describes it as a “key technology” that promises not only data transmission in real time but also higher network capacity. 5G networks are the prerequisite for a large number of digital innovations, for example for autonomous driving and for communication between machines without cables.
According to the survey, every seventh company in Germany currently uses artificial intelligence. The larger the company, the more likely it is to use intelligent solutions. Predictive maintenance, as a common AI application, uses algorithms and sensors to monitor machines, so that the AI can indicate imminent malfunctions or failures. Another example are robots that can autonomously adapt their work processes to current requirements.
Challenges are data protection and data security
In addition to the advantages that Industry 4.0 brings to the German economy, it also brings challenges. 58% of the companies surveyed complain about the lack of specialists for Industry 4.0, 73% focus on the high investment costs, and two thirds of the respondents in each case cite data protection and data security as significant obstacles for Industry 4.0.
Bitkom President Berg sees the German-French project Gaia-X as promising for data protection within the digitization of German industry. The goal is to create a particularly secure European cloud infrastructure. “If Gaia-X is set up properly now, it can significantly strengthen confidence in the security and protection of industry 4.0 data – and thus also the secure data exchange between companies,” says Berg.
In addition to data protection, however, the data security of networked production plants and other Industry 4.0 components should not be neglected. For several years now, regulatory authorities have been clearly advising plant operators in particular to include the cyber security of their plants in security reports and risk assessments. Due to cyber crime, financial risks as well as risks to life and limb have become realistic business risks that must be calculated and secured.
On June 18, 2020, the weyer group is organizing an online colloquium on the topic “Cyber-Security of Production Systems and Machines”. Here you can inform yourself about the topics and our speakers. Register now for our online colloquium
Related informations about the topic Industry 4.0
Here you can find the study results in detail.
Read the other parts of our article series “The Corona virus as a driver of digitalization”.
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