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Switzerland: Digitization Industry 4.0 – Boon or Bane?

| Author / Editor: Silvano Böni, SMM / Rosemarie Stahl

The terms digitization and Industry 4.0 have been buzzing for a long time through local factories. Now, when is the breakthrough? What are the potentials of the fourth industrial revolution? Our colleagues at the Swiss MaschinenMarkt have asked around.

When comes the breakthrough of industry 4.0?
When comes the breakthrough of industry 4.0?
(Bild: Mimi Potter - Fotolia)

Siegfried Gerlach, CEO Siemens Schweiz

Everyone has been discussing the theme of Industry 4.0 for years. When is the breakthrough?

Siegfried Gerlach: Digitization revolutionizes global business events: Companies can collaborate closely and quickly with partners, communicate directly with end customers and cater to their specific requirements. The technology is there; initial implementations have been done – the breakthrough shall take place now. That is evident from examples like Pilatus Flugzeugwerke in Stans, who have developed their new business jet using our simulation software, or even Stöckli Skis and Schlatter Industries, who have been able to increase their productivity massively, thanks to digitization.

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What are the new business models and potentials that can be expected from the 4th industrial revolution?

Industry 4.0 facilitates value enhancement on the basis of individualization, interaction and hybridity, that is, a mix of classical methods of production and new digital applications. All the three phenomena are underrepresented in the rationale of current business models. There is a huge potential for companies in the digitization of their individual value chain as a basis for the «Smart Data to Business» principle, according to which data is converted into knowledge and business models.

When one speaks of Industry 4.0, the expression «Factory of the future» is employed very often. What is your vision of factory 4.0?

The factory of the future will be organized like a «living Internet», in which everything is connected with each other: The assembly workstations know which person will work on them next – and cooperative robots shall help in difficult activities.

While talking of «Factory of the future», an image of people-free workshops comes to the mind of many. Others rave about the advantages of digitization for people and also that this will not cost any jobs. What are we supposed to believe?

In the factory of the future, only the workwear of an employee will remind one of the times gone by. Of course, he will probably still be working on assembly workstations, but there will neither be fixed shifts and production processes nor fixed workplaces. In our electronics workshop in Amberg – which is a showcase factory for Industry 4.0 – we have for example 250 different work time models for the around 1250 employees.

Can digitisation help in bringing production back to the Switzerland?

We should consider digitization as an opportunity. For this purpose, it will contribute in continuing economic production in this country even in the future. If we can manage to play a pioneering role in this regard, we shall also be able to market this know-how at an international level. It is important to compensate the cost disadvantages quickly.

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