Japan, Italy and Germany rebuilt after WWII when buildings and furniture were in great demand. In the last few years Italy and Germany in particular have been able to produce technically-advanced equipment at a comparatively lower price than ever before. Here we take a look at what’s happening in Germany.

After the Second World War the allies rebuilt the axis countries and Japan, Italy and Germany have thrived. Wood working machinery was in huge demand not only for construction but for furniture as well and it’s no surprise some of the largest wood working machinery manufacturers were established in these countries. From Germany some recognisable modern names are Altendorf; Grecon; Homag; Holz-Her; IMA-Schelling; Martin; Weinig; Leitz and Leuco. As a Country, Germany produces one third of the EU’s industrial value-added followed by Italy, France, the UK and Spain (source: Deutsche Bank). The potential for German industry to upgrade further as a result of Industry 4.0 is very high as the Country strengthens its position as the “factory outfitter of the World,” a phrase coined by DBR. Companies mentioned as pioneers include BorgWarner; Bosch Rexroth; Festo and Homag. Industry 4.0 has high expectations but also a poor understanding of what exactly the term means. Integrated industry would be a better term but whatever it’s called, the German Government through various ministries have got behind it with grants of more than EUR200 million. Terms such as “internet of things; big data; cloud computing; cyber-physical systems; RFID chips and machine-to-machine communication” are thrown around and while the hype is probably not yet fully understood; will eventually formalise into the future of manufacturing.

The GDP in US dollars is estimated to be 90,000 billion estimated in 2020 (source: ZVEI Frankfurt). There’s a lot of money at stake and this “internet of things” is not going away any time soon. You can expect to see smart products, procedures and processes in what is often referred to as the smart factory. Here you will see individual product design; linked machines; the product itself determining the packaging (see piggy bank picture) and RFID chips (radio frequency identification) that determine where the end product is shipped. Other Countries have also made serious inroads into Industry 4.0 but it was in Germany that the idea first appeared. The wood working industry was well on the way with its own integration and has jumped on the band-wagon with some amount of passion. The smart factory may be closer than we think and industry will benefit from lower production costs, flexibility, less lead-time and easier adaption to customer requirements. While there may still be some uncertainty as to how the wood working industry will benefit, in Germany the process is well under-way.