The field of specialization “Industrial production and systems” is a critical component of the Thuringian economy. With its growing markets and numerous activities across a wide spectrum of industries, this field accounts for almost half of Thuringia’s manufacturing output.
This means that Thuringia boasts a well-developed entrepreneurial base in production engineering, plastics processing, mechanical engineering and toolmaking, measurement & control technology, micro/nanotechnology, optics/photonics, sensor technology, and robotics, as well as materials & materials systems.
A particular strength is the bundled scientific expertise provided by seven Thuringian institutions of higher learning and 15 research institutes. Achieving an ever-closer interlinkage with the Thuringian economy is a top priority that is actually applied in practice, as exemplified by the “Twenty20 consortia” (partnerships for innovation subsidized by funds from the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF)), 2 “growth cores,” and 3 “growth-core initiatives” (each likeswise subsidized by the BMBF), currently in place. The following diagram provides an overview of the competences available in this particular field of specialization:
The primary components of total turnover in this field are the manufacture of metal, rubber, and plastic products as well as mechanical engineering. The Thuringian optical industry has a particularly significant role in this, since it exhibits an extremely high localization coefficient for Thuringia while enjoying an outstanding reputation across the globe for its achievements in the development of modern optics. The Free State’s glass and ceramics industry is another major employer.
Key economic data for this field of innovation:
• Turnover: € 16,773,356,000
• Number of operations: 3,459
• Size of the workforce (employees subject to compulsory social insurance contributions): 102,000
Source: based on TLS data (data for 2018)
Flexible and efficient production technologies will be of great importance when it comes to keeping production operations competitive in the future. This means that in order to turn out customized products, it is necessary to have the ability to design processes adaptively and to integrate them into corresponding systems.
Another significant competitive factor for manufacturers is the ability to offer essentially error-free production. Thus, there is an increased demand for processes that integrate sensor and actuator technology to monitor and steer production. The salient drivers of efficiency in this context are in-line process monitoring and smooth human-machine interaction, whereby the people will have to be properly trained and acclimated to deal with an automated workplace.
The digitalization of production and the networked interlinkage of value-added systems called for by the “Industry 4.0” concept is of critical importance for Thuringia as a region focusing on innovation. A key premise of the German Federal Government’s High-tech Strategy is that embarking upon a 4th industrial revolution – “Industry 4.0” for short – is an indispensable step towards ensuring Germany’s future competiveness and sustainable growth. In this context, the strategy emphasizes the need to connect the real and digital worlds across company structures by placing increased reliance on the integration of smart information, communications, and management systems on the one hand, while also interlinking the various processes and resources along the entire value-added chain, from the vendor and other intermediary producers to the end customer.
The ability to react quickly to changes on the market will be decisive in this context. Thus, the existing Thuringian competences in various technology segments will have to be exploited and continually expanded.
Thanks to the Free State’s innovative enterprises, diversified research and academic institutions, strong R&D capabilities, and numerous networks, Thuringia is well-positioned to successfully navigate the digitally networked future.
The Working Group “Industrial production and systems” is focusing all of its efforts on further enhancing Thuringia’s status as an internationally visible production region with a strong focus on excellence in technology, thereby realizing the vision set forth in the Innovation Strategy. This vision and these strategic objectives form the starting point for implementing the Thuringian Innovation Strategy.
The vision defined by the Innovation Strategy together with its strategic objectives form the basis on which the Working Groups pursue their activities.
Thuringia is an internationally visible production region with a strong focus on excellence in technology, and its success rests on an interdisciplinary approach, a competitive infrastructure, rapid responsiveness to the market, and innovative power: