Industry 4.0
Germany Hesitates before Launching Digitisation

A new study shows that companies are not yet out of the starting blocks when it comes implementing Industry 4.0 initiatives.

The German section of the market research institute IDC surveyed 201 mostly medium-sized companies on the topic of Industry 4.0 in August 2015. A prerequisite for participation was that the respondents had already dealt with the topic or had at least heard of the concept before.

Users see the benefits with caution

The result was a very mixed picture. If you look at the results from the individual sectors, currently mainly mechanical and plant engineers have addressed Industry 4.0 and the benefits that they can derive from digitisation. 28% of them thus indicated that they had dealt extensively with the concept; in the other sectors this figure was only 6%. Factory outfitters see an opportunity to expand their traditional product business with new services and open up additional sources of revenue. As for many companies from other sectors, one looks in vain for such openness towards the latest developments.

When asked about the major benefits of Industry 4.0, respondents mostly gave the familiar reasons: reducing operating and production costs, increasing the degree of automation, coping with the increasing complexity of production and making it more flexible. However, the majority of respondents were not yet fully aware of the potential offered by digitisation. Only 18% mentioned the ability to be more responsive to customer needs as a benefit, only 14% saw the opportunity to tap into new sources of revenue and another 14% could see themselves using the technology to more clearly stand out from the competition.

Companies show increased interest

It has nevertheless become fairly widely known that something new is emerging that could be of the utmost importance for companies. The study shows that the topic’s considerable presence at trade fairs and in the media over the last year has also increased the level of interest shown by companies. Compared to a similar survey a year ago, the proportion of companies that have dealt intensively with the topic, according to their own accounts, has risen from 8% to 18%.

However, there is still a lack of practical implementation. Although 45% of respondents said that they were still in the evaluation phase, about a third claimed they had already gained experience with Industrial 4.0 in pilot projects or in productive operation. And even the applications themselves are far from exhausting all the possibilities digitisation offers. When asked about the nature of the use cases, the answer was almost always the monitoring of products and processes. The use of Industry 4.0 technology for product testing and quality control was mentioned most frequently, at 43%.

IT security will mean corporate security in the future

Companies are aware that digitisation is bringing along major changes. The integration of office and production IT will in particular result in the increased importance of IT departments within companies. Their employees will not only need to ensure a seamless connection, but will also be dealing with the growing volumes of data and looking after the data security. At the same time, cloud computing is becoming an increasingly important part of enterprise IT: 39% of respondents see the cloud as having an enabler function for Industry 4.0. However, according to authors of the IDC study, medium-sized companies continue to show a certain amount of scepticism when it comes to using cloud concepts.

One reason for this is obviously security concerns. 54% of the participants thus indicate that there has been at least one security incident in their company in the past twelve months due to unauthorised external access. 32% report production being manipulated, 25% interruptions in production, 21% compliance violations of laws and regulations, 17% the theft of intellectual property and 15% even report injury to individuals.

The biggest security risk in this environment is also the human factor – in 35% of cases, the problem was caused by employee error. The high complexity of ensuring security, products and solutions that are still lacking maturity as well as a lack of in-house expertise were also frequently mentioned. The IT departments are fighting back, for example, by using firewalls, antivirus programs and intrusion detection systems. Technology alone, however, is not sufficient to secure the digitised production processes. Technical measures must be supplemented by safety training for employees, training courses and the assignment of responsibilities.

IT plays a key role

The implementation of Industry 4.0 concepts in companies currently is on hold. The study shows that companies would in particular like to see stronger support from software manufacturers. 39% demand more sophisticated technologies, while 26% deplore the lack of concepts for ensuring IT security. Companies nevertheless show a certain confidence that the software and hardware industry will develop appropriate solutions: more than half of the companies surveyed were looking for an IT provider as a partner for the implementation of Industry 4.0. (Source: IDC/rf)