The German engineering industry is fully committed to maintaining its leading position in industry as well as manufacturing. Germany was the birthplace of the fourth industrial revolution, or the concept of Industry 4.0, which integrates machinery and production in the value chain into one network resulting in a whole new level of production efficiency. What would be the Estonian version of Industry 4.0?
“The advantage of Estonian companies is the environment where
we already operate – electronic data exchange is a daily
occurrence here. Industry 4.0 adds the need for internal and
mutual interaction to the scene we are already accustomed to,”
said Tarmo Oja from research and development company
However, the question according to him is how to achieve this
with reasonable development and maintenance costs, while
meeting security and other requirements in a way that does not
lose sight of the main activity of the business? “Companies
already use options afforded by x-path in their communication
with public authorities. This means that Estonian ICT already
has the knowledge, skills and experience needed for regular and
secure of information exchange with evidential value. X-path,
as a platform, has received support by the state and thus its
functioning is guaranteed – what would favor data
exchange more? All elements already exist for
companies to locate each other’s services, and use those to
create new business opportunities,” said Oja.
In addition, the new x-path Version 6 currently under way
enables to use the same platform for cross border information
exchange – bringing the services of Finland’s KaPa ‘home’.
According to Oja, what this means is that the services of
Finnish companies will be accessible for the new ideas of
The former German Ambassador Christian Matthias
Schlaga suggests that Estonia’s ageing and decreasing
population means it faces challenges to increase the quality of
life here with fewer people and without the benefits of mass
production. “Estonia needs to focus on, and become extremely
good at, small-scale production and manufacture specialized
products or parts.”
Schlaga observes that in recent years Estonian companies have
become more innovative, many have realized that in order to
stay competitive it is important to review production processes
and focus on product development. On the other hand, compared
to industrialized countries, the proportion of
Estonia’s workforce engaged industrial sector is still
relatively high while productivity remains low.
“The general standard of living and income can only be
increased through improvements in the value chain: to make more
expensive high-quality products that are able to compete in the
export markets. Competitive products are the prerequisite for
entering international markets and being successful,” the
ambassador noted in an interview with the magazine TööstusEST.
He added that in Germany there is talk of increasing efficiency
and competitiveness as a result of Industry 4.0, which is only
made possible by renewal of manufacturing processes.
“Industry 4.0 could offer similar benefits to
Estonia: in order to remain competitive it is critical
to observe what is happening in other countries and consider
how these concepts could be integrated in the Estonian business
models and manufacturing processes.”
Schlaga also emphasizes the importance of language
skills when considering the German market, adding that
while contacts can be established in English, the working
language of major groups is German, and language skills would
offer a definite competitive advantage for long-term
collaboration. “Twenty years from now we will live in a totally
different world – many every-day things will be automated with
the help of computers. Industry 4.0 will hopefully help Estonia
to go along with this process,” the ambassador noted.
The CEO of Bosch Software Innovations GmbH Rainer
Kallenbach predicts a major shake-up for production companies
as a result of Industry 4.0, because the planning process for
each product needs to consider how it would work when combined
with the Internet.
According to Kallenbach, the Internet changes the
nature of things and Bosch is continually developing
new IT-based services in order to make its products smarter and
more powerful. He gives the example of electric cars that
require charging at stations. However, in the context of
Industry 4.0 it must be considered what kind ICT based services
could be added to the charging stations to improve user
experience: for example, smart phone apps showing the location
of the nearest charging station and using mobile phones to pay
for the charging service.
If you are more interested in Industry 4.0,
the international conference “Industry 4.0 in
Practice” is organized on June 2, 2016 in Estonia.
Find more information here.