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Flexible, social, 4.0

Fraunhofer IAO explores the future of production

Which key features will define the manufacturing activities of tomorrow? In setting out to answer this question for their current study, researchers at Fraunhofer IAO placed particular emphasis on innovative solutions made possible by new technologies, as well as on the effects of the megatrend toward greater flexibility.

In the last few years, Germany has experienced both its largest economic crisis of the post-war era and a subsequent swift recovery. These developments showed that the manufacturing sector plays a pivotal role in ensuring the country's economy remains solidly competitive. But how can manufacturing activities help companies overcome tomorrow's challenges? Volatile markets, new global players, the lively pace of consumer trends, customized products, and precision production processes all require production systems and employees to become increasingly flexible and responsive. At the same time, it is important to maintain today's high levels of productivity and quality.

The question of which direction manufacturing will take in response to the prevailing conditions in industry was at the heart of the study entitled "Manufacturing Activities of the Future - Industry 4.0". By surveying manufacturing companies and production experts, Fraunhofer IAO researchers were able to examine the impact that new technologies such as mobile devices or social media are having. They also analyzed the effects of the megatrend toward greater flexibility on manufacturing.

Their survey helped identify the critical success factors in ensuring that future production activities are innovative and competitive. For instance, automation is set to spread to ever smaller product runs. But this is not to say that human labor will cease to play an indispensable part. Another key factor is flexibility: in the future we will need to respond and adapt even faster, and this flexibility must be targeted and organized systematically. Tomorrow's production activities will also feature a far higher degree of smart data acquisition, storage and distribution - by both objects and people - than today.

The study can be ordered from March 2013.

Contact: Tobias Krause Production Management Fraunhofer IAO Nobelstraße 12 70569 Stuttgart, Germany Phone +49 711 970-2036 Email: tobias.krause@iao.fraunhofer.de

idw :: 14.02.2013