It is probably one of the most dynamic economic trends in the global manufacturing industry: The “fourth industrial revolution” is expected to turn production processes upside down. For years, decision-makers and experts considered it a myth. Today Germany’s industrial heartland, North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), is pushing its development forward. This opens up new opportunities for German and international investors.
This evolutionary change involves modern ICT being incorporated into highly automated and networked production processes that are blurring the boundary between the real and the virtual worlds. The factories of the future are interoperable, modular, self-adapting, decentralized and work in real time – in short, they are smart factories. The workers control production processes via cyber-physical systems while the machines monitor themselves and communicate with each other to optimize production processes, the use of resources, logistics and maintenance work. Factories will no longer have boundaries: plants at different locations are connected in peer-to-peer networks. Suppliers, manufacturers and customers are brought closer together than ever before. The products are more individualized and linked with high-quality services to create innovative hybrid products.