Production 4.0 in Bavaria: Schaeffler and digitization

When it comes to Industry 4.0, Bavaria is in an excellent position as a strong business location. Companies of all sizes and from every user industry ensure that the location's innovative strength continues to be bolstered. We have already discussed many such examples on this blog – now it is time for them to speak for themselves. The first is automotive and industrial supplier Schaeffler.

Gerhard Baum, Chief Digital Officer, Schaeffler AG

Industry 4.0 in the automotive sector

Just at the end of last year, the company announced its strategic partnership with IBM, intended to push the topic of digitization even further through a focus on “mobility for tomorrow”. The company's proximity to IBM's new Watson IoT headquarters in Munich is of course especially useful, meaning that consultation with the Group headquarters in Herzogenaurach takes no time at all. The first milestone in the collaboration was the implementation of a digital platform, which has hosted all Schaeffler's data-based services since October 2016. Gerhard Baum, Chief Digital Officer at Schaeffler AG, told us more about the topic.

Which benefits do you promise your customers from using digital production processes?


Schaeffler, as a supplier, wants to actively shape digital production processes for its customers. With a team of more than 1,200 staff, we are constantly developing production technologies to achieve greater efficiency and higher quality. Our production system is implemented in more than 70 plants worldwide.

Production today is being constantly further developed by digitally-supported people and networked machinery. Schaeffler will use this to further expand its leading role in the production and supply chain environment and to make this expertise available to the market. Digitization enables us to optimise product quality even further and deliver even more reliably to our internal and external customers.


Which specific advantages and aspects of technological progress benefit your industrial segment and your company in particular?


New opportunities and technologies in data analysis enable Schaeffler staff to use both existing and additionally collected data to optimise all processes holistically throughout the supply chain. Virtual, augmented and mixed reality technologies are being tested and developed further for use in production. In virtual training rooms, for example, staff can gain further qualifications quickly and in a targeted way.


You are not the only ones in Bavaria working on Industry 4.0. Which partnerships and collaborations are you involved in?


We collaborate with various internal and external partners. For example, we are working together with the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft on the beacon Industrial Data Space project. Discussions on inter-company platforms and working groups is an important part of our digital agenda.

One example of our “company-on-campus” concept is “SHARE am KIT” – the Schaeffler Hub for Automotive Research in E-Mobility at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. We have also just launched a similar cooperation, “SHARE an der FAU” at the University of Erlangen, and plan to expand the model to other specific topics and regions. We are also involved in external networks such as the Munich Network and the digital business incubator in Middle Franconia, no least in order to expand our collaboration with start-ups. This is an excellent basis for acquiring high-performing, talented people.


Strengthening Bavaria's digital economy


None of this is new for Schaeffler. Back in 2015, the company's “Machine Tool 4.0” project proved how pioneering it can be in implementing digital projects. Together with its partners, Schaeffler developed a machinery concept that connected existing technologies with new digitised components from the sensor to the cloud – a tangible step towards digitised production. Schaeffler's move to Bavaria is a real gain for the state, and will benefit not only its own customers, but the entire digital economy.