“We were invited to Singapore, and we were asked how we could help maintain business competitiveness in the country. We responded that we can help in the area of Industry 4.0. We were then told by the Singaporeans that they didn’t want Industry 4.0, which anyone can offer. They insisted on the German version Industrie 4.0,” narrates German business development expert Christian Blobner.

The fourth industrial revolution or what is dubbed as Industry 4.0 is the latest technological trend that is now transforming industries through data integration. Germany is said to be its architect of Industry 4.0 .

While Blobner is convinced that Germany still holds a leading role in industrial production and smart factories, there are limiting factors that Germany should address if it wants to maintain its leadership status.

“With the shrinking society, the demographic change, there’s no other way to keep our current state as an industrialized nation, other than by automation. People have to adopt to a changing environment. The current challenge is to invest in human resource qualification inmultiple levels,” points out Blobner. “Germany has a dual education system where companies and the state provide education apprenticeships in companies. It’s a very market-driven initiative that should have more digitally-focused programs. We’re at a point where lifelong learning is really necessary for the immediate future,” he continues.

For German Ambassador Stephan Auer, it is Germany’s initiative towards international cooperation that gives Germany a head start on Industry 4.0.

“Ever since its introduction in Germany in 2013, the so-called Plattform Industrie 4.0 has united representatives from different sectors to promote standardization. Industry value chains have stopped ending at national borders. Therefore, if we want to remain globally competitive, we need international cooperation,” stresses Auer.

France, Germany and Italy recently intensified their trilateral cooperation to promote digitizing manufacturing industry in relation to Plattform Industry 4.0. There has also been an increased effort for exchange with Korea, and to expand the coordination in Asia. “The exchange of data is a fundamental factor within Industry 4.0, where one cannot merely work in their own national bubble,” explains Blobner.

What does Industry 4.0 mean for German SMEs?

Germany recognizes the strong influence of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in its economy. “For this reason, the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology created an initiative, the so-called Mittelstand Industrie 4.0 Competence Centers that concentrate on creating digitalization awareness among small and medium-sized companies,” shares Blobner.

He goes on say that “every single company is quasi- re-entering as a new entrepreneur”. He advises SMEs to evaluate whether their current business model is a future-oriented one that can cope with digital structural changes to remain profitable.

Blobner and Auer participated in the Jeju Forum 2018 where the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) and the Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia hosted a session on Industry 4.0.

Watch the interview with Blobner here.