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Berlin to go, english edition 1/2015

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DISCUSSION And what is

DISCUSSION And what is GE working on in this area? CH: Our core research areas cover an enormously wide range of subjects, from aero- and thermodynamics, imaging techniques in medicine, to automation and robotics in manufacturing. With the latter, one of the priorities is “adaptive manufacturing” whereby production robots are equipped with a variety of sensors so they can adapt to the specific machining requirements of each individual component. This, of course, is closely related to such current concepts as “Brilliant Factory” and “Industry 4.0”. What issues are currently being discussed with respect to “Industry 4.0”? CH: The aspect that is most often the focus of discussion in Germany is the optimization of production processes in industrial manufacturing, the key objectives of which are reducing costs and increasing productivity. This could be considered an extension of the digitization and automation of production, which has been of interest to us for quite some time. The next wave of digitization, however, will be much more radical and comprehensive than anything we have seen thus far. Each individual product will be paired with a so-called digital twin, which will accompany the product from the raw material stage, on through design, production and operation, all the way to disposal and recycling. This digital twin will document a product’s Carlos Härtel speaking with Berlin to go. entire life cycle, creating a treasure trove of information that can be used to make quantum leaps in the development of basic technologies and manufacturing processes. Let‘s take Berlin as an example. How would the “Industrial Internet” be applied there? CH: Everyday examples that are frequently mentioned include networked street lighting equipped with sensors so the brightness of the lights is not only adjusted according to the time of day, but also according to the type and intensity of traffic. Or sensors that identify available parking spots, thereby providing municipal parking guidance systems with needed information. These are the types of “Industrial Internet” applications that we’re sure to see in Berlin in a few years’ time. Of course there’s one obvious problem involved in the use of this technology in the public sphere: data privacy. In industry, the situation is, of course, somewhat different, since the data is primarily technical and not personal in nature. 12 BERLIN TO GO

DISCUSSION So there‘s no need to fear Big Brother as far as “Industry 4.0” is concerned. What about the other common fear associated with this issue? Will machines steal our jobs? CH: The new development will present us with both positive effects as well as certain challenges. However, I see no realistic scenario in which technology turns everything upside down and human labor is no longer needed. It is safe to say that machines will become increasingly standardized and take over repetitive tasks. However, more skilled workers will be needed to set up and operate those machines. While some things will disappear, new things will appear – exactly on what scale, we’ll just have to wait and see. But the need for manpower certainly isn’t about to disappear. To what extent can the “Industrial Revolution” be seen as a model? CH: A lesson that the history of industrial revolutions teaches us is that they are often preceded by fears and objections that have often proven unfounded. Mankind has never been deprived of a chance to earn a living. On the contrary, prior industrial revolutions were responsible for historically unique progress in the fields of health, life expectancy and prosperity. We have every reason to enter this new era with optimism. Back to the here and now: Has the launch of “Industry 4.0” gone the way you imagined it would? CH: In Germany, it is still proceeding rather haltingly. Germany certainly aspires to play a leading role in every relevant field of science and technology. But far too little is being done in terms actually implementing “Industry 4.0”. Mid-sized companies in particular seem to continue to take a wait-and-see attitude. If the recent history of the Internet teaches us anything, it is that speed is everything in this new sector. If you don‘t already have a plan, tomorrow may be too late. So I would like to see fewer strategy sessions and more entrepreneurial spirit. This year, the new GE training center will be opening in Berlin. Even the chancellor was at the groundbreaking. GE and Berlin: What’s the connection? CH: We have a long history with Berlin, a fact that received considerable attention during the groundbreaking ceremony. The first GE plants were built in the capital more than 130 years ago. Emil Rathenau and our founder Thomas Edison were good friends and Rathenau became a licensee for Edison‘s breakthrough technology in the field of electricity and lighting. However, there is another reason why Berlin is so important to us: the city’s special appeal, which makes it easy to recruit many highly qualified employees, even from abroad. Did the city‘s startup scene play a role in choosing Berlin as your location? CH: Of course. Berlin is, indeed, a paradise for startups. The concentration of sharp minds in such a lively locale is certainly something that will enrich this city for decades to come and it’s what makes it so attractive to companies like GE. Thank you for the interview. Interview Julian Vetten BERLIN TO GO 13

Publications in English

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