Industry 4.0: The emergence of the “smart factory” in China

Germany has a strong base in innovative industrial manufacturing; China's efforts to continue to establish itself in the high-tech global manufacturing sector are unprecedented. In the face of growing global competition, increasing economic volatility and ever faster production cycles, both countries are facing the same challenge: how to move their industries to the next level. Important measures to achieve this goal are "Made in China 2025" and "Industry 4.0" – two initiatives that highlight the importance of digitization in making manufacturing fit for the future. Freudenberg, a global technology group headquartered in Germany, has spent many years developing its expertise in this field through its IT expert company, Freudenberg IT (FIT).

"Rising production costs, shorter production periods as well as increasing demand for quality and reliability underline the need for innovation in the manufacturing industry," says Bettina Schoen-Behanzin, Head of the Freudenberg Regional Corporate Center Asia in Shanghai, "Freudenberg is committed to innovating together with Chinese companies to get them ready for 'Industry 4.0' and 'Made in China 2025'." Originally a German initiative, "Industry 4.0" is today understood throughout the world as the process towards the digitization of manufacturing and supply chain processes to create "smart" manufacturing systems, where humans, objects and machinery communicate with each other as part of an intelligent, learning network that can adapt to changes such as changing order status in real time.

What does it take to implement "Industry 4.0"? Reto Bless, General Manager of FIT Asia, explains: "The first thing we need to understand is that very few companies will enter 'Industry 4.0' starting from zero. The key lies in understanding how to adapt existing infrastructures to the challenge of 'smart' manufacturing, and this is where we can help with tailor-made products and solutions." In addition to its expertise, FIT Asia offers a further unique advantage when it comes to "Industry 4.0": The company has been supported by the strong manufacturing background of a global technology group since its foundation in 1995 – and therefore understands the needs of manufacturers.

Benchmark solutions to suit companies of any size

Among FIT's "Industry 4.0" products are innovative IT platforms that serve to integrate manufacturing intelligence at companies of any size and grant access to interfaces allowing inter-machine communication and manufacturing automation. These interfaces permit, for example, real time control of machines, automated quality assurance, as well as management of supply shortages or machine breakages. FIT has also developed a Cloud-based product to make this solution accessible even to small and medium enterprises in only three months until Go-Live – a unique offering in the industry.

According to a FIT Asia analysis, the potential market for "Industry 4.0"-related services in China is huge: By the end of this year, China will have over 10 million small and medium-sized enterprises of which 82 per cent are active in the automotive industry, 73 per cent in the electronics industry and 70 per cent in machinery – the very industries that will benefit most from 4.0 industrialization. "'Industry 4.0' is the gateway for the country to move from 'Made in China' to 'Designed in China.' The growing ambition of Chinese entrepreneurs to establish more efficient, modern and greener factories will further accelerate China's transition to 'Industry 4.0'," Reto Bless believes: "There is no doubt: the future of manufacturing lies in the smart factory – and here at Freudenberg IT Asia we are committed to paving the way to this future for our customers in China."