Guest commentary from Tom Blades, Chairman of the Executive Board of Bilfinger SE
Advances in innovation in the twentieth century often took decades. Nowadays, in most cases, creating the next product, the next process or a new business model takes a few years. Sometimes it is a matter of months or even days. Innovation cycles are accelerating rapidly. Driving all this is digitalization: everything which can be digitalized is being digitalized. According to studies, 50 billion connected things will be in use worldwide by 2020. For German industry, this is not a threat but a great opportunity. Today, digitalization offers the industrial nation the best chance to strengthen its leading position.
In 2016 alone, more than 1.4 billion smartphones were sold around the world. Everyday life is governed by the Internet: from your wake-up call and the purchase of your bus ticket to online banking and watching a live football match in the evening. The number of applications is increasing rapidly. Digitalization is tearing existing value chains apart and creating new ones, having an impact on all aspects of life and in all industries and markets.
So it comes as no surprise that Apple, Google’s parent company Alphabet and Microsoft are currently the largest companies in the world by market capitalisation. But is digitalization really the exclusive domain of the big US technology companies? You might get that impression if you were just looking at consumer electronics, but Europeans are clearly setting the tone in commercial IT, especially German companies such as SAP and Siemens.
"Made in Germany" is still a seal of quality recognised across the globe, and that applies equally in the digitalized world. The excellent reputation of German engineering is one of the reasons that "Made in Germany" is such a strong selling point. German industry is a flagship of the global economy, because it is open to new trends and plays an active role in shaping them. This is based on extensive know-how in industrial plant technology, combined with a thorough understanding of production and maintenance processes.
These days, we have to focus on devising more intelligent production processes and creating greater value added for the customer. In the past, plants were generally not repaired until something had gone wrong. That was not a particularly effective way of operating. Now, Internet-based platforms record large quantities of process-related and commercial information, making current technical plant data available centrally.
Remote diagnostics using integrated analysis software and expert technical analysis make it easier for the customer to predict when repairs and maintenance might be required and to put appropriate plans in place. Unplanned production downtime can therefore be avoided, while carefully-planned maintenance work reduces production and maintenance costs.
Global comparisons indicate that the German economy has been one of the clear winners over the past few years. Its prospects remain good. German exports have surged to an all-time high and employment is at record levels. Its innovative capacity means that German industry is a winner in the digitalisation era and at the same time a driver of progress.
(Translation from German language, source: "Die Welt" - issue August 16, 2017)
Video: Digitalization with Bilfinger
Advancing digitalization presents industry with a major challenge. Selected examples show how Bilfinger is helping customers face this challenge: Mobile Solutions | Process Optimization | Remote Control | Energy Efficiency | Digital Twin | Digital Plant | Virtual Reality | As-built Documentation