The coronavirus has hit us like an earthquake. At the same time, it has catapulted us into a world of digital acceleration. Has it also done this for Germany's factories?
A study by the business-software provider IFS has found that the Covid-19 crisis has not had a negative impact on companies' plans for digital transformation. On the contrary, half of the German companies surveyed are actually planning to increase their expenditures for digitalization projects. They are confident that the economy will recover within the foreseeable future.
Competition is driving change
The Covid-19 crisis has shown us that smart factories are better able to weather crises. A total of 94 percent of companies surveyed by the Bitkom digital association consider Industry 4.0 to be the key to protecting German industrial competitiveness. As competition continues to intensify, the need for flexibility and adaptability keeps growing. Companies are now seeking to digitalize their machines, buildings, products, supply chains and even entire factory operations. But digital transformation is not as easy as it sounds.
When we look at the modern factories operating today, we quickly discover that many processes are already digitalized – development, production, logistics, administration, sales and customer service. But in most cases, the processes are still structured on a stand-alone basis and are not truly interconnected. As a result, they do not function as smoothly as they could. Losses of efficiency – and, in the worst cases, errors and malfunctions – can result.
Our great hope is "digitalization"
Data are the be all and end all of a smart factory. And they are the basis for Industry 4.0. When a factory's different components are smartly interconnected, data can flow directly from planning to production and back. All participating systems interact with each other. Data streams truly provide a basis for more efficient management of production.
Factories enhance their productivity by making their value streams transparent and optimizing their machines' capacity utilization. The 2019 Deloitte and MAPI Smart Factory Study found that when companies digitalize individual areas of a factory, the factory's entire production output increases by 12 percent.
Help in the digital jungle
Digitalization also brings greater complexity, however. Managing this complexity that emerges when different components from different providers are combined is the greatest challenge in my view. T-Systems' Factory Campus provides quick assistance and an overview in the digital jungle. It presents ways to speed up product development, enhance the resilience of supply chains, and eliminate security vulnerabilities in manufacturing. Its solutions for these areas apply state-of-the-art technologies such as IoT, 5G, artificial intelligence, blockchain, Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Cloud, and digital twin.
All of this makes me hopeful. The future of Germany's factories is digital!