February 2, 2015
In the coming decade we will likely witness the first practical developments of the strategy of the German government: Smart Factories, planning industrial manufacturing. With new technological appearances, the industrialists’ trend for efficient use of resources, and using the Internet, it is possible that we will see this in the coming years on a large scale.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the effects of the first industrial revolution proved to be beneficial for England, managing to keep the title of the world’s first industrial power well into the 1900s. France, on the other hand, developed more slowly, reaching its full potential towards the end of the industrial revolution. The case of Germany, however, was slightly different, as its industrialisation was affected by the country’s political fragmentation, causing favourable conditions which could trigger the revolution in this field to materialise only decades later.
When the second industrial revolution started, characterised by mass production and development of industries such as the electrical, chemical or automobile industries, Germany was much better placed. Building on its leadership in chemical research at universities and industrial laboratories, Germany became dominant in the chemical industry in the world in the nineteenth century; even though it takes some time to exceed the UK and France technologically.
The third industrial revolution is considered to be digitization. Economist Jeremy Rifkin has a clear vision on how this will influence not only the economy, but also other areas. It will require us to imagine hundreds of millions of people who can produce their own green energy in their homes, offices and factories, but that’s not all. What is more interesting is to share it with others, as in a “Internet of Energy”, something we would use to “share”, like information online now.
The introduction of the 3D printer, capable of producing even food, is a testament to what experts calls “the fourth industrial revolution”. The process is characterized by strong personalization of the products in mass production and interconnectedness. The impact of Industry 4.0 promises to appear in several areas across society, with major effects on the socioeconomic level.
It will be interesting to see how Germany will play with this topic of a reindustrialized Europe in 2015; with an interesting joker up its sleeve: the European Commissioner for the digital economy.
Does this development have potential for Romania? The governor of the National Bank anticipated the transition from mass production to customized production on a large scale already over a year ago. “The advantage of using Chinese labor disappears, but what reappears is the advantage of having the production taking place near the actual market. We see big companies back to US or returning back to Europe”.
Political empowerment means not only winning the next election, but actually designing public policies for improving quality of life and also to prepare the country for the coming years. It would not hurt launching a Romanian “Masterplan” relating to this topic, or even to launch a debate on the subject “Romania and Industry 4.0”, to be aired on television shows so dear to Romanians.