With a key theme of “Industrial Transformation,” Hannover Messe 2021’s primary focal point unsurprisingly revolved around Industry 4.0. However, the human element ended up far from lost on conference speakers, who readily acknowledged the role of workers (and consumers) during the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“The digital transition means more [data] sovereignty but also more participation for employees,” said Frank Melzer, Chair of Germany’s Plattform Industrie 4.0, a network enabling pre-competitive collaboration between stakeholders.
Unlikely Catalyst for Digital Transformation
Melzer had been speaking as part of a (translated) German panel discussion titled “10 years of Industrie 4.0 for the digital transformation of industrial value creation.” At a separate English discussion on Industry 5.0, ServiceNow’s Bill McDermott called the digital transformation one positive byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic.
McDermott, the President of the workflow-management platform-as-a-service provider, said the transformation requires further innovation to thrive. He presented value chains as an example.
“Twentieth-century value chains were based on just-in-time manufacturing -‘How do we reduce inventory costs in the supply chain?’ – and ultimately that did not protect anybody from the shock [of the pandemic]. So, now we are moving to a world of ‘just-in-case.’ New paradigms have arisen to de-risk operations while protecting profit,” he said.
McDermott’s comments came in a conversation titled “How to digitally transform manufacturing for modern work and the next-gen workforce,” during which he said automation is a key to success. He pointed to migration within the workforce from jobs characterised by menial tasks as a way to empower employees.
Automation and Adaptability
Of note though, in a recent research report, McKinsey Global Institute said the pandemic would lead to faster adoption of automation and AI, but also force a greater-than-expected amount of workers to transition to higher-wage positions. Still, Melzer agreed that new forms of work do need to be created.
“AI gives people more time to support creativity. We are not taking people away from jobs. We are freeing them,” he said.
Melzer was joined by co-panelist Johannes Ketterer, Executive VP at SCHUNK GmbH & Co. KG, a manufacturer of industrial gripping systems. He said greater technology development is closer than one might think.
“An adjusted mindset, culture, and working methods are necessary. The potential is there, the technologies are there. We just need to move to implementation,” Ketterer said, adding how SCHUNK benefits from a “transparent shop floor” that links five plants and 450 machines, improving Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) by 15%.
Marriage Between Man and Machine
McDermott drove home the idea that humans, in addition to technology, will also be at the heart of the digital transformation. He referred the audience to a recent European Union report on Industry 5.0.
“In the future, value chains will become value networks or ecosystems and they’ll be underpinned by platforms that enable co-creation across customers, suppliers, and partners, and sometimes competitors too,” he said. “Trust is the ultimate human currency. So digital trust is the foundation of digital value creation.
“These digital networks will be the future of manufacturing for sure. If you look at the European Union report, they talked a lot about connecting human potential through Industry 5.0, which offers sustainable, resilient human-centric industry highlights and I think this is certainly a move that has no finish line. We’re in full speed now.”
GAIA-X, a project launched by France and Germany developing a federated European data infrastructure, calls for one such digital ecosystem. The project was discussed during the 10 years of Industrie 4.0 panel. Ultimately, in his interview, McDermott concluded that it’s all a matter of embracing change in order to reap the economic benefits well into the Fifth Industrial Revolution.
“Seventy-five percent of Fortune the 500 companies today will no longer exist by 2027,” he said. “Linear thinkers will want to go back to the way it was, especially as the crisis is nearing an end once people get vaccinated, but exponential thinkers are dreamers and they will dream about the best-case scenario for the future and they will reverse-engineer it to know exactly what they need to do today to make the 2027 or 2030 dream a reality.”
The Hannover Messe runs the balance of this week, ending on Friday, April 16. Details and ticket information can be found at www.hannovermesse.de.
Alex Lawrence contributed to the reporting in this piece.
Feature image courtesy of MONOPOLY919 (via Shutterstock).
With journalism credits spanning several sectors including finance and tech, Ryan joins 6GWorld with wide eyes looking onward. He aims to lend his experience to the site, covering the latest generation of cellular advancements as it unfolds, leading into 6G.