02:47 - Source: CNN
Step inside Germany's 'factory of the future'

Story highlights

Germany's industry is among the most successful in Europe

However, the aging population struggles to meet the demand for workforce

A new project, Factory of the Future, tries to rethink the role of humans in manufacturing

To mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, CNN’s week-long special Made in Germany will look at how the country’s economy has developed since the momentous event.

CNN —  

Germany’s industrial sector is known for its efficiency.

Its automotive industry is among the most successful in Europe, and stands as the third largest in the world.

But with an aging population, the country is struggling to meet the demand for a skilled workforce which can continue to propel manufacturing forward.

Cue the “Factory of the Future”, a 17,000 square foot innovation hub in the city of Chemnitz where researchers experiment with new technologies and machinery in a bid to improve the production process.

Developed by scientists at Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology in Saxony, the factory is particularly committed to rethinking the role of humans in manufacturing lines.

“The processes we are developing today are so much more complex,” says Professor Dirk Landgrebe, director of the institute. “The machines and resources are so much more sophisticated that we will need qualified people to handle these processes in the future,” he adds.

Virtual training

To ensure future workers are fully prepared, the lab has created a state of the art virtual environment where potential employees can test out the new technologies and intelligent systems that are set to form the building blocks of German industry.

Employees enter a 3D room which can take on the appearance of a factory or even a piece of equipment.

By using a controller, the advanced technology detects head motion, adapts to movement and changes the user’s view accordingly.

Funding innovation

Fraunhofer Institute, the brains of the “Factory of the Future” operation, is part of the 70 institutions committed to researching and developing new ways to enhance Germany’s industrial landscape. The German government is also involved in funding work that will eventually form the infrastructure of German production.

“Our task at Fraunhofer is to bring as much of our research as possible straight into industrial production,” says Matthia Putz, director at Fraunhofer Institute.

“We don’t focus on reports, we develop new products and new technologies together with industrial partners,” he adds.

Germany’s manufacturing industry has long held the standard for innovation, and even though it has faced challenges, it looks like “The Factory of the Future” may keep the country from losing its edge.