By Oliver Wack
The great interest in Industrie 4.0 from Germany stems mainly from China, followed by Japan. This is not restricted to association or company level. The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) has signed bilateral agreements with China and Japan ensuring long-term cooperation. The Industrie 4.0 platform in Berlin will act as a point of contact for foreign organizations.
China has ambitious goals
China would like to continue to scale the technological ladder and achieve international success with domestic brands. These are ambitious goals and will be difficult to achieve without foreign partners, according to VDMA. This technology development plan could create additional business opportunities for the German mechanical engineering industry.
According to Western observers, the implementation of Industrie 4.0, which is linked to the further digitalization of the economy, is not possible without a further opening of the market due to the network of international economies, including that of China. It remains to be seen whether this realization will materialize, particularly in regards to the Chinese cybersecurity law which became effective in June 2017.
Own contribution required
Many Chinese companies still view Industrie 4.0 solely as a concept with which manufacturers develop products which they then use to optimize production processes. The fact that these companies then have to make a significant contribution to develop and implement the best solutions for themselves is often cause for surprise during talks. In collaboration with its offices in Beijing and Shanghai, VDMA is planning an event for 2018 where its members will have the opportunity to present their ideas and product solutions to representatives of Chinese customers under the motto "What is really behind Industrie 4.0?"
China looks to back cooperative solutions
Independent from this, China is very active in seeking to achieve its goal of cooperation, particularly in research and scientific matters. The most recent example is the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation (IPA) which began a five-year cooperative project with the Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) in October 2017, with the option to extend the collaboration. The goal of this collaboration at the Project Center for Smart Manufacturing in Lingang is to implement projects in the research fields of digital transformation and artificial intelligence together with industry partners. The Chinese government is supporting the project and the results should also benefit companies with foreign investment in China.
Robot revolution in Japan
Japan's plan to optimize and digitalize production processes is based on the continued development of the robotics sector. By 2020, the East Asian country wants to have defined the goals and accompanying measures for the introduction of standards. Additionally, Japan wants to gain international partners for collaborations. The Japanese sister association of VDMA, Japan Machinery Federation (JMF), is looking to increase the cooperation between Japan and Germany with regards to Industrie 4.0. "If we can come together even more, further opportunities for a more intensive cooperation on third markets may present themselves," explains Toshio Adachi, Senior Executive Director of JMF. VDMA recently welcomed a number of high-ranking delegates from Japan. During these meetings, it became apparent that the Japanese expectations were not always in line with German interests. At the end of November 2017, multiple events took place in Tokyo with the goal of improving mutual understanding and analyzing possible areas of cooperation.
India is on the starting blocks
Thanks to its strong IT base, India sees opportunities to jump on the bandwagon and make its contribution to the further digitalization of both the domestic and international industries. Ever increasing numbers of German and international companies are looking into qualified Indian companies to support projects.