European Dialog Initiative 2023 – Dialog on ‘THE FACTORY OF THE FUTURE’ on March 16, 2023 in Metzingen

The next stop on the 2023 tour: At Motorworld Metzingen, key ideas for the Factory of the Future were on the agenda. Around 150 guests and numerous experts discussed reshoring and the versatile factory, digitization in production, as well as sustainability and ESG in industrial production.

The importance of the topic ‘Factory of the Future’ was underscored by the fact that the event attracted more visitors than any other during the tour so far. The hosts, Drees & Sommer and ICT AG, invited guests to a joint dialog event featuring various keynotes, panel discussions and in-depth sessions. The setting was the historical Motorworld Village Metzingen near Stuttgart with its industrial flair.

Prof. Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, founder and director of the Center Automotive Research (CAR) and one of Germany’s leading automotive experts, opened the dialog. In his keynote speech, he stressed that rapid adaptation, investment and leaving the beaten track are essential if German automakers want to ensure that they remain competitive in the future. They have rested on their laurels for too long, he said, and are now coming under increasing pressure from competitors from China and the US in the field of e-mobility.

Rene Wolf, Director of Manufacturing Operations at Ford Europe, picked up on this vital change in the second keynote. He sees digital data as the new gold in the automotive sector too, which is why he argues that the entire value chain should be digitally analyzed to enable more efficient production.

Download presentations: Prof. Ferdinand Dudenhöffer and Rene Wolf

The panel discussions – facilitated by Michael Konopka, (Senior Consultant, Business Transformation and Network Management) and Mathias Stach (Associate Partner Integrated Factory Planning at Drees & Sommer) – expanded on these takeaways. In the first panel discussion ‘Made in Germany – from offshoring to reshoring’, Prof. Dudenhöffer, Karin Lang, Dr. Ralf Köppe and Tom Richter came to the conclusion that Germany must become bolder and faster if it wants to remain an attractive production location in the future.

In the second panel discussion, Oliver Browa, Roberto Henkel, Uwe Drücker and Wolfgang Skrabitz discussed ‘Digitization in production’ with Rene Wolf. The key message here was that sustainable digitization of autonomous industry only succeed only succeed if it takes human factors into account. And this will require retraining, support programs and new job descriptions. The final panel discussion entitled ‘A different approach to successful production’ – with Dr. Mathias Vesper, Jörn Ernst, Frank Kübler, Donato Caputo and Jürgen Knörrich – came to a similar conclusion, agreeing that joint action is the key to achieving a profound, sustainable transformation and will be essential to drive change.

The dialog event was rounded out by four in-depth sessions in which participants could further consolidate their knowledge in their areas of choice. The sessions covered ‘The versatile factory’, ‘Sustainability in industrial production’, ‘Factory and building control’, and ‘Urban manufacturing’.

The clear take-home message of the day was that, in addition to enabling significant increases in efficiency, the data-based, digital factory of the future is also the key to sustainable large-scale manufacturing. But despite their high level of technical autonomy in these facilities, people should remain the central element during the transition process.