Industry 4.0: Many local politicians and companies are basing their hopes on this concept: With its cyber-physical systems, Industry 4.0 could become the next leading export from Germany. If it is possible to establish the extensive automated and networked production in this country, it could become a key future building block for mechanical and systems engineering, for the industry and, not least, for automobile manufacturers.

The dream of full automation

The keyword here is automobile manufacturers: One large German corporation was dreaming of almost full automation back in the 1980s. However, this dream never amounted to anything – or at least not to anything much. This may be because the supporting systems were not well-developed enough back then. For, without a powerful ECM, full automation will always be a distant dream.

Machine communication needs data

Why? Let’s take a closer look at an often-quoted vision: In the future, car components will theoretically be developed so that they continuously collect data about their condition. In the case of a defect, a replacement will automatically be ordered and automatically manufactured in the factory. According to this vision, even single-unit productions will be able to be produced with the utmost in flexibility, in a self-organised way and with the greatest efficiency.

Hard-core "paper thinking"

The problem: In many factories, production is still prepared, controlled, monitored and documented using paper documents. But the autonomous machines must obtain the data that they need to play their role from somewhere. Thus, if Industry 4.0 and its fully automated workflows is not to be thwarted by the “old” paper, a little persuasion is required so that more and more companies switch to digital processes.

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