This is the question I had after watching the Dutch newscast at the NOS. The issue is that the Dutch are lagging more and more behind the Germans (except for soccer). Now part of that statement is a joke as Germany is 850% the size of the Netherlands. In addition, Germany has large deposits of ores. They are regarded as one of the world’s foremost producers of iron, steel, coal, cement, chemicals, machinery, vehicles, machine tools, electronics, food and beverages, shipbuilding and textiles. So why is this comparison even an issue?
Ineke Dezentjé Hamming, president of the FME (an organisation for the Dutch technological industry) stated “Wij verliezen onze positie als exportland als we niet snel vernieuwen en mee-ontwikkelen met de Duitsers” (translated as) “We are losing our position as an export nation if we do not renew and develop our technologies with the Germans“. In addition there is the statement that Germany is now in its fourth cycle of industries, where factories and ICT are completely integrated (at http://nos.nl/artikel/632638-nl-raakt-achter-op-duitsland.html).
An example could be the New VDL Nedcar factory, which allows for 24 hours a day production. The NOS newscast implies in my view (they did not state) that the approach of the FME is that the government should be handing over the funds to allow for this. In opposition of my own words, I must state that her statement in the Hannover Messe does not imply that at all (at http://www.hannovermesse.de/en/exhibition/partner-country/ineke-dezentje-hammink-blue.xhtml). Yet, the changes in infrastructure will require massive funds and there is plenty of clarity that the industry corners do not seem to have it.
I am still in awe that the Dutch want to get on equal footing with the Germans on an industrial ground. It almost reads like David stating towards Goliath ‘where are the other eleven?‘ which make me wonder, why is this even an issue?
Yes, as the article stated, the Dutch have for too long relied on services, which was not the best choice, yet, what are the options? The Dutch have no mining options, they have an excellence in ship building, yet that market is not doing too well. Let us not forget that the Dutch did have an excellence in services too. They had the East India Company, which should be regarded as the first and largest multinational ever, starting in 1602 lasting almost 200 years, which is a much better track record then IBM can proud itself on.
But in this day and age, after a multiple joke echelon of services based organisations (from the late 90’s), relying on selling concepts, the age of services is dwindling down. Even now, when we see the Business Industry relying on services and selling them, we see a decline as many customers selected (sometimes forced) to find internal solutions. Many corporations had to wise up fast. This is at the heart of the issue I have with the thoughts of Ineke Dezentjé Hamming-Bluemink. She is correct in the thoughts she phrases, yet again, when compared to the Germans, the Dutch had let these options slide for too long. An integrated ICT means that ICT skills are essential to these companies. If not, then those services will explode in costing’s as the ICT will suddenly rise in value, in an unbalanced way, which created a news hype bubble and there is no way that this is a good thing. This is where the shoes become too tight for the dance of industry. To get this all in motion, training and adaptation should have started two years ago. If the entire track is started now, we will see a wildfire of services and needs, which will drown common sense and pragmatism, which in turn will only hurt industries further.
So, why am I writing this?
The issue is that Ineke Dezentjé Hamming-Bluemink brings up an issue that is at the centre for not just the Netherlands, but the situation also applies to the United Kingdom and Australia. This industry 4.0 as they call it might be needed, but that need goes far beyond just high tech industry. The NHS is just one of many service based organisations where the need for strong and correct integration is required (which seems to be a mess). The ICT integration has been a requirement since the late 90’s. Yet, greed got in the way and as these firms all hunkered down on selling concepts and ‘solutions’, the ICT developers got lazy and many decided to forsake on created products and they all walked down to the path of some 80% readied toolbox with additional training and consultancy.
It was extremely counterproductive.
The Dutch have seen in the last three years how ‘Deutche Grundligkeit’ has taken foothold and it gives way to additional growth in Germany. So, the Dutch want to get on this 4.0 horse as some might see it, but why and for whom? The Netherlands does have an industry, however when we get past the breweries and Nutricia, what is left? Unilever, Akzo-Nobel and perhaps Philips? So, in this smaller list, why is industry 4.0 such a story?
That is the puzzling part, which gets me to the (by me) implied need for government ‘subsidies’. This I see as another approach to overspending, by those who should be keeping their wallets closed (the unfortunate consequence of being in debt for almost 500 billion dollars).
Is industry 4.0 anymore then the latest hype?
This is a question that is a lot harder to answer. Yes, it is hype, but the issue with ‘hype’ that this word also implies that its need tends to be overstated to some degree. This is where I tend to side with the need for it. If all parties need to cut costs, then Industry 4.0 is a definite need, but getting there will require spending and is this truly an option for some?
Here we need to see the words of Journalist Frank Gersdorf from the ‘Financieele Dagblad’ (Financial Paper) “De toekomstvisie wordt in Duitsland met zoveel geweld gepusht, zoals met een overheidstoelage van € 200 mln en promotiefilmpjes, dat je bijna gelooft dat dit echt de toekomst is en dat wij in Nederland de boot missen“, translated it states “The futuristic vision is getting pushed in Germany with such ferocity, like with the subsidy of € 200 million and promotion films, that it is implied that this is the real future and that the Dutch are missing the opportunity” (at http://duitslandnieuws.nl/archief/2014/02/frank-gersdorf-industrie-4-0-misschien-een-hype-maar-heeft-wel-toekomst/)
These words give strength to my implied acts from Ineke Dezentjé Hamming-Bluemink seeing them as an attempt to shake the governmental money tree to see what might drop down. it makes perfect sense that she was doing this as it is her job to get what she can to work for and fight for her interest group. This is all fair enough and we cannot fault her for that. I just wonder if the Dutch and several other groups are even ready for this. Germany has always believed in unity (their version of it) and as such, they had set out a path, which has been in motion since 2004 (at http://www.din.de/sixcms_upload/media/2896/DNS_english%5B1%5D.pdf).
This shows that Germany has been on the industrial choices for a decade; the Dutch cannot just step in and ‘proclaim’ that we should get there too just overnight. This I can proclaim as I was there in the late 70’s and 80’s as the Rotterdam harbours were in a transitional need for upgrading. Take 3 large harbour barons and you got 7 opinions, 14 options and no solution. I reckon that Anthony Veder was the last of the true famous harbour barons. As I witnessed the sales fight between IBM, Hewlett Packard (mainframes) and Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), things were never standard in any way. For the record, my voice was always with DEC with VAX/VMS, which showed true paths of open standardisation. There is only so many times you can stomach the ‘answer‘ “we are IBM” as it was an actual answer to a question. This is however not about IBM, this is about the needs for industry 4.0 and as such a new form of true standard ‘plug and produce’ solutions. There is no commitment to a path, too many players want the door to remain open so that they might get a shot at this and at the same instance, nothing gets done and no one will decide. So it is not just about the advantage Germany is building, it is about the increased distance it is creating by actually going for any solution.
The Germans do have a massive advantage. When the need was there almost 5 years ago, Germany did tighten the belt, the rest (Netherlands, UK, France and Italy) played their ‘fair weather’ games and as such they are now in additional hardships, which is likely disabling that money tree to be shaken. At least, until there is a clear shown path for an ROI for the Dutch taxpayer. This is however not just about the Dutch; the Commonwealth is in a similar situation. In the magazine Industrial Technology of January 2014 (at http://www.gambica.org.uk/app/images/documents/articles/Industrial_Technology_Jan2014.pdf) where we see the following quote at the end: “Industry 4.0 could be the reason why the UK is ultimately successful in redefining itself as a manufacturing economy“. This I can agree with, just as I did not disagree with the statements given by Ineke Dezentjé Hamming-Bluemink. The issue of funds will remain, no matter how needed it might be and if this is good for business, why should the government fund it? Consider the statement “we could be profitable if the tax office foots the bill“. That is what this current Industry 4.0 situation amounts to. This does not mean that it should not happen, but what is the Return On Investment? If it takes longer than that, is it a good deal to put money in something whilst the main objective for the Netherlands and the UK should be to lower their debts.
The issue is already getting the consultants to crawl out of the woodwork (like Roland Berger), where we can read (at http://www.rolandberger.com/press_releases/Industry_4_0_opportunities_for_European_industry.html)
“The Roland Berger experts explain what companies and politics should do to support the development of Industry 4.0 and leverage this opportunity for Europe“. It seems to me that this is another one sided step to get the cards shoved into the hands of politics to spend, spend, spend. They also illuminated a second side to this all. The second quote gives us the cake with toppings “This is where politics needs to support the process by initiating research and development programs at the European level“. Why? Why can this not be instigated by IBM, Oracle or by Hewlett Packard? If it makes business sense, then these three will hop on that horse right quick. Why must tax Euros be used one way or another? They made billions, which means that sponsoring should not really be a prerequisite.
In my view, I find that new technologies are usually a step forward, yet when we consider on how people jump on and off funding horses with the greatest of easy within their political terms, should we allow certain corporate evolutions at the expense of the government coffers?