Interview with Dr. Dietmar Kestner
VAIS, Verband für Anlagentechnik und IndustrieService e.V.10 Oct 2023
1. What challenges is German industry currently facing?
The challenges facing our industry are immense: decarbonization, the digitalization of processes and the shortage of skilled workers are placing high demands on the various sectors and the infrastructure of Germany’s industrial locations. At the same time, the crises such as the COVID pandemic and the energy crisis have exposed the deficits and structural problems in Germany in recent years. The challenge of the transformation aside, the energy-intensive industries in particular are operating in an extremely difficult competitive environment at the international level. Without some sort of relief, such as a temporary bridge electricity price, and without more speed in the granting of permits and greater moderation on the regulatory side, it is our belief that our industrial locations in Germany are at risk.
2. The VAIS will be supporting the new Industrial Services exhibition area at HANNOVER MESSE 2024. What added value can the trade fair offer your members?
HANNOVER MESSE is the leading international trade fair and showcase for industry. We are pleased that, with the new exhibition area, the importance and role of industrial services as enabler for the industrial transformation in Germany will become more visible. The show offers our members the opportunity to present their solutions to an audience of customers and experts and, in return, to familiarize themselves with the latest technological developments.
3. Which services are currently in high demand?
According to the latest VAIS industry monitor publication, the industrial services sector – along with plant engineering – registered slight growth again after the upheavals caused by COVID and the war in Ukraine, and a good third of the companies anticipate a positive business trend, at least in the medium term. The majority of these are companies that are active in the field of technologies and services for hydrogen and hydrogen derivatives or are expanding their expertise in that segment. And there is justified reason to expect an upsurge in demand for climate technologies and services as a result of current climate policy. Incidentally, our member companies thus make a key contribution to promoting sustainable business practices in Germany as an industrial location.
4. Sustainability is a major issue for industry and, of course, HANNOVER MESSE. What contribution do your member companies make in this direction?
Plant operators cannot implement the adjustments and adaptations entailed in the challenges of transformation on their own. They need strong industrial services that proactively accompany them with sound advice in the transformation process as well as in the use of new and green technologies.
The focus is on increasing the efficiency of existing plants, innovative solutions for plant conversions and, not least, intelligent maintenance technologies, as well as advisory services in topics such as energy management, emission reductions and occupational and operational safety. All this leads to greater sustainability.
The VAIS actively supports its member companies by consistently aligning all its association activities to the "3Ds", which stand for sustainable action: "defossilization", "digitalization" and "demography". In addition, the guide to the German Sustainability Code (DNK) that we have drawn up for industry service providers furnishes practical assistance for getting started with strategic sustainability management and sustainability reporting.
5. Within the association, you have a dedicated department for digitalization and artificial intelligence – topics that play a central role at HANNOVER MESSE as well. What progress have your member companies made in these two fields?
With the Digitalization & Artificial Intelligence department, we support our members in technological and regulatory issues involving digitization, as well as in the implementation in the companies themselves. A large number of members have succeeded in further digitalizing internal business processes in recent years.
Digital services are already an integral part of almost every one of our members' service portfolios. VAIS companies are already very well positioned in the field of process automation. The vast majority of our members regard predictive maintenance, for example, as one of the most important topics in the area of innovation.
The picture within our membership is a heterogeneous one in the sphere of AI. The rule of thumb in this context is: the larger the company, the more advanced it already is in the use of AI applications. However, the VAIS also wants to offer assistance and orientation to SMEs as well, for which purpose the aforementioned department is currently working on a "blueprint", a practical guide to criteria for sensible and purposeful use of AI in plant engineering, operation, and maintenance.
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