Ludger  Neuwinger-Heimes
Digitalization  New work  05.12.2017

Ready for Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 has been a business-news catch phrase for some time. Is the “fourth industrial revolution” just hype or a genuine issue for the future. And what does it mean for Freudenberg Sealing Technologies (FST)? ESSENTIAL spoke with Chief Financial Officer Ludger Neuwinger-Heimes on the topic.

Neuwinger-Heimes draws a comparison with electricity as he describes the magnitude of Industry 4.0. First it involved incandescent bulbs. Today it is used to charge vehicle powertrains. He sees similar potential for networked industry, especially since the field bundles multiple developments: artificial intelligence, big data, machine-learning and the cloud. “Together, they represent the power of the development.”

The Disruptive Potential of 3D Printing

Neuwinger-Heimes believes it will lead to changes in work processes and radical changes in business models. He especially sees disruptive potential in 3D printing. If consumers of the future print their shoes themselves, their actions will have an impact on the supplier industry and other sectors. The same applies to the sealing industry. Even today, for a customer in Australia, the process of ordering a seal from Germany is basically much too complex. It would be much simpler to print one where it is needed. That is why, at some point, Freudenberg Sealing Technologies might want to just make the machine, the material and the engineering available. Customers would then print the product on their own.

Learning and Gaining Experience

Neuwinger-Heimes considers the company to be well prepared for Industry 4.0. The so-called “fourth industrial revolution“ is being intensively evaluated, he said, and FST is ready to become involved with it on a targeted basis. “But we must learn how to differentiate between the hype and what can support our seal business long-term,” he said. It is also essential to gain experience on how to properly use the new technologies. “As soon as we begin to understand the processes, everything changes.” For example, it is currently impossible to bore around a corner, he said. So winding hollow spaces cannot be designed. But 3D printing makes it possible – without difficulty.

But Industry 4.0-related developments won’t emerge overnight, according to Neuwinger-Heimes. There will be time to adapt to the changes associated with the new developments. But he added that they must not be ignored.

Read the complete interview with Ludger Neuwinger-Heimes along with the views of Dieter Schäfer (Chief Operations Officer at FST) on Industry 4.0 in the current edition of our customer magazine ESSENTIAL. They can be found here.


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