But what happens to people when machines take over more and more tasks? Many employees are worried about their jobs. Jochen Hanebeck from Infineon’s Management Board is unruffled by this trend: “Half of all employees will definitely be affected by digitization. But we don’t see a net loss in jobs.” A prime example is Infineon’s semiconductor production operations in Dresden, where the company makes chips on 200-millimeter and 300-millimeter wafers. The 300-millimeter line was designed from the outset for fully automated production, whereas the older 200-millimeter one has been gradually automated and connected to a greater extent over the past years.
It now has a degree of automation of around 90 percent. As a result, the site has been able to increase its productivity by 70 percent since it was founded in the mid-1990s. At the same time, the headcount has remained constant at around 2,000 over the past ten years. Digitization and connectivity have preserved the Dresden plant’s competitiveness, ensured growth and made a key contribution to securing the site’s long-term future.
A study by the Boston Consulting Group also paints a rosy forecast: Industry 4.0 will contribute one percent per annum to Germany’s gross domestic product and create around 390,000 new jobs by 2025. That means there will be more demand in future for more highly complex tasks, especially in the fields of IT, data analytics and maintenance. There will, predominantly, be fewer simple routine tasks. And not everyone will mourn their loss, that’s for sure. After all, having robots lug around heavy crates means protecting the health of human workers, who will then also have more time to tend to more challenging things.
That trend means employees have to be willing to keep on developing their skills. One successful example is Uwe Häßler: A trained electrician, he began his career as a skilled worker at the mechanical engineering company Harting Applied Technologies in 1990 and moved on to PLC programming in 2001. He now develops Industry 4.0 systems and IT interfaces. “When I started on the research project three years ago, all the things mentioned at the time were visions I couldn’t even imagine,” says Uwe Häßler. “Back then I said it would never be possible. Now I’m one of those who say: Yes, it is possible. And I develop visions myself.”